SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant welcomed more than 500 campers to his annual basketball academy at UC Santa Barbara on Wednesday.
The five-day Kobe Academy is a chance for young basketball players from around the world to learn from the 5-time NBA champion. Bryant says even though his Achilles injury won't allow him to play or scrimmage during the camp, he'll be there throughout.
"I remember when I was a kid going to camps sponsored by top athletes," Bryant said. "They would never, ever show up and I made the decision then that when I grew up and had a camp of my own I'd be there."
Wednesday was also the first opportunity for media members to ask Kobe about Dwight Howard leaving the Lakers for Houston.
"It's important for free agents to make decision that they feel is best for them and best for your family and best for your brand," Bryant said. "So, it is what it is."
Los Angeles is coming off a disappointing season, finishing seventh in the Western Conference, being bounced in the first round of the playoffs and Bryant dealing with the worst injury of his career, a torn Achilles tendon.
Kobe insisted that the Lakers will be in contention in 2014 and he hopes to make it back on the floor, healthy and ready sometime next season.
The Kobe Academy runs until Sunday, July 14.