Japhet Mcneil is a 35 year old 183 cm guard from Brooklyn, New York that has been a professional player since 2008. He played at East Carolina from 2003 -2006. He then transferred to Bridgeport (NCAA2) for his senior year in 2006-2007. At Bridgeport, he played 31 games averaging 16.6ppg, 4.0rpg, 4.9apg, 4.0spg, FT: 67.3%, FGP: 38.3%, 3PT: 34.6%. In 2008-2009, he played his rookie season in Germany in the PRO A for USC Heidelberg playing 30 games and averaging 14.8ppg, 3.1rpg, Assists-1 (7.9apg), Steals-1 (3.5spg), FGP: 45.4%, 3PT: 24.1%, FT: 63.3%. In 2009-2010, he played in Finland for Kori-Konkarit Loimaa (Finland-1st Division, starting five): 5 games: 9.8ppg, 2.6rpg, 2.8apg, 3.4spg, FGP: 35.0%, 3PT: 19.0%, FT: 50.0%. In 2010-2011 he played for BG Karlsruhe (Germany-ProA) playing 3 games averaging 4.0ppg, 1.3rpg, 1.7apg. In 2011-2012 he got experience playing for the Connecticut TopBallerz (ABA). In 2012-2013, he played for the BSW Sixers (Germany-ProB) playing 14 games averaging 4.5ppg, 1.6rpg, 4.1apg, 1.5spg. He then played two seasons with the Schieren Black Frogs (Luxembourg-N2) and a season with DJK Nieder-Olm (Germany-Oberliga). He also played two seasons with FC Kaiserslautern (Germany-Regionalliga). He spoke to germanhoops.com about his memories of Kobe Bryant.
Where were you and how did you find about the death of Kobe Bryant?
When I first received the news that Kobe Bryant had passed. I was at home because it was a Sunday. And Sunday is usually a family day. So I had received a call from one of my close friends who follows sports heavily. And at first, I thought he was joking because everyone knows Kobe was my favorite player. So, I automatically got mad and told him don’t wish death on him like that. Then his voice became low and it cracked and he said ‘He is dead it’s not a joke.’ I then rushed to my computer to Google if it was true.
When I heard about it, I thought it was a hoax. What were your first thoughts when you heard about it?
The first thought that ran through my head? I thought there is no way. Simply because when you think of your favorite sports player you never really think that they will die. In a childish way you think they are invincible but realistically you know they aren’t. I thought everyone on social media was pushing false information.
How much of your day the day after did you take informing yourself about his death and watching videos?
That day and the day after I spent the majority of my time looking back at the old Kobe videos and tributes and listening to former players and their stories. I also spent hours just listening to the news trying to figure out if his daughter was involved in the crash and I was praying that none of his daughters where involved. But later found out sadly Gianna was involved.
How did your love for Kobe Bryant develop over time as you were growing up? How do you remember following his career?
When I first knew about Kobe Bryant, he was drafted the same year my little brother was born. When I first saw him play he was a bit mediocre in fact. I vividly remember his first air ball he shot. But something had intrigued me at that time. He never stopped wanting the ball. To the contrary it seems like he wanted the ball more. Like a little eager kid to get back up after falling off their bike. My love for Kobe Bryant grew more and more as I started to age in basketball years. Hearing the stories of how much work he had put in to get where he was at. And then realizing what it was to play at a specific age and get up early in the morning to then go back at it later that night. It was astonishing trying to make a connection and figure out what made him get up every morning. Then after a while it became an infatuation with Kobe. It became what would Kobe do? I remember his career vividly; those Christmas games was the things that I loved the most getting up to some Christmas songs, and then at 3pm Kobe was playing and that was a must watch at all times. At the same time seeing Kobe hit these amazing shots back to back and being the person that would go on an 8-game run of 50+ points was ridiculous.
Kobe Bryant was for so many the greatest ever. What did you appreciate most about his game? Was he a guy that you pretended to be on the playgrounds?
Kobe Bryant’s work ethic for me was the most jaw dropping thing for me. Hearing the work that he puts in everyday was crazy. And to me he was the best ever. How he transformed his game from the slasher and mid-range guy to the guy that can just get it done. He became the total package. Not only where people just watching Kobe, we were mimicking his every move. On the playgrounds we were his embodiment if you ask me. Whether you were a guard or a big man you were putting your back to your defender trying to post him up and hit a fadeaway from deep for game. And at the same time, you were yelling Kobe while you shot that shot.
Kobe Bryant had so many amazing games like his 81 points and countless other games where it was lights out as well as winning 5 titles. What is your fondest memory of him of what he did on the court?
My greatest moment of Kobe was his very last game. You never saw anyone have an outgoing game like that. They had nothing to fight for but they had to beat the Jazz because the jazz had a chance of being in the playoffs if I’m not mistaken, they needed to win and the rockets needed to lose. But it was Kobe Bryant’s last game. The crazy part about the whole thing as well was the 2016 Warriors where going for the League record in most wins in an NBA season. And everyone was tuned into Kobe’s last game ever. When I was watching the game, I couldn’t help but think that he still looks like he can go for another season. And I wouldn’t have minded if he came out and said one more year. However, it was his last time and he dropped 60 in a Kobe type of fashion. He had hit three clutch shots to close them out and I sat there and thought he is the best to ever do it and I’m glad I am alive to see this.
The outpouring of sadness was incredible. Guys were crying and leaving heart felt messages on Social Media. How long do you think it will take until the basketball world comes to terms with this tragedy?
Honestly, I don’t think the basketball world would come to terms with it. Simply because his legacy will live on. It’s not just my generation that thought he was the greatest of all time. My little brother (Age 22) is younger than me by 13 years. And he thinks Kobe is the best player to lace up. So, his generation and my generation will never live him down. I also see my youngest brother who is 12 have Kobe as his wallpaper on his phone. I’m not really too sure how much of a prominent figure Kobe is in his generation. But to see a 12-year-old with Kobe Bryant as his wallpaper speaks volumes.
When you look back in 20 years on the career of Kobe Bryant how will you remember his legacy best?
I think telling my family about how great this man was would be telling. I also think I will be looking at the YouTube videos that people have created. And watch countdown of the top 10 Kobe best plays or his best moments on the court.
One of my last questions in my standard interviews is what is your opinion of the neverending debate of who is the greatest of all-time Michael Jordan or Lebron James. Often players remind me that I left out Kobe Bryant.I have been thinking about this a lot . How worthy is a Kobe Bryant to be seen as the greatest of all-time?
Kobe one hundred percent deserves to be in the conversation of greatest of all time. All facets of Kobe’s game is literally what anyone wants to be as a player. He had the game to back up all trash talk. He had the audacity and the heart to take every shot that came his way. And he was a leader in his own way. And not only was he great on the court he was great off the court; he became a great ambassador to the game not only for the men but for the women’s aspect as well.
My last question isn’t what is the last movie you saw, but what video of Kobe Bryant will you take a look again when you have some time to look back at his great career?
The video I will look back at was the interview or the documentary between him and Shaq. They both had great insights into the game. While also showing how important personality is in this great game. While also showing how being friends int his game is important.
Thanks Japhet for the chat.