He grew up playing AAU basketball against Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony. Now he thinks he's better than Magic Johnson.
It's good to be Matt Kemp, the Midwest City High School graduate and Los Angeles Dodgers star who is looking to return to the lineup after the All-Star Game.
Kemp joked with reporters that he would be the first member of the 50-50 club, hitting 50 home runs and stealing 50 bases. That was before the All-Star center fielder spent most of this season on the disabled list with a hamstring injury.
Kemp, last season's runner-up for the National League MVP, recently met with Yahoo! Sports' Graham Bensinger for an in-depth interview on topics such as his love for basketball, ex-girlfriend Rihanna, his tumultuous 2010 season and his new contract.
How frustrating has the injury been for you?
“It's definitely been frustrating. I think I've been on the DL one time in my previous years. Second year in the big leagues I went on the DL one time. I never got used to getting hurt and watching games on the bench. So, it's a little frustrating for me to sit there and watch my guys go out there and play every day. But everybody has their challenges. This is one I have to overcome. I got to get healthy so I can get back out there and perform for my team.”
How is the recovery going?
“It's going good right now. We're taking it slow. I went on the DL and then came back for two games and did it again. That was frustrating. Now we're taking it a little bit slower so I'm for sure healthy and 100 percent.”
How challenging is it to embrace being the cheerleader on the sideline while you're recovering?
“If you ask my teammates, they'll probably be like he's crazy; waiving my towel and talking to them and just going nuts when somebody hits a home run. That's my family and when I see them do good … I'm just living through them right now. I want to be out there with them really bad. I cheer hard.”
Your thoughts on Magic Johnson being one of the Dodgers' new owners.
“Unbelievable, man. To have him around, to have him sitting there right by the on-deck circle, to see what type of person he is, to have conversations with him I'm just glad that he's part of the group and part of the team.”
What's this I hear about you saying you can beat him in basketball?
Oh, come on.
“I can beat him in basketball right now. He knows that.”
Really? Why does he know that?
“Because I'm faster than him. I can go around him.”
One column I read about you (regarding the 2010 season), “Dreaded going to work to play the game he grew up loving.” How much truth is there to that?
“It was a just a tough, tough, tough year all the way around. I think I stopped having fun, and that's probably the biggest thing you probably shouldn't do when you play baseball, is stop having fun. We were all frustrated. Um, we weren't playing good, we weren't making the playoffs, we were getting whooped day in and day out and it was definitely frustrating. It kind of didn't get fun for me and that's when it kind of just went all the way it went.
To what extent do you feel like people within the Dodgers organization had given up on you at that point?