Sister, I’ve been an Angeleno since before you were born, savvy? I’ve taken my fair share of lumps in this broken city of dreams, but nobody’s gonna sweep this dirt under the carpet. That kid Bryant hasn’t played defense since the Olympics. The Beijing Olympics.
Kobe’s on the hook for a double manslaughter, throwing two players under a bus during an Oklahoma City post-game news conference. Thousands of witnesses, but nobody with the stones to rat him out.
It was 2012 when I saw him pop the team’s season. And I’m not talkin’ about the pick and pop. This was murder. The big sleep. The Lakers swimmin’ with the fishes.
Kobe single-handedly blew two late fourth quarter leads so fast it was like watching a faded starlet trying to make a comeback on the casting couch. It wasn’t pretty witnessing his crimes. The turnovers. The contested bricks. The Mehta-“d’oh!” defense*.
Instead of having a 3–2 lead and heading back to tinsletown, Showtime was reduced to NoTime, thundered by those hayseeds in OKC, 4 games to 1.
Nobody called me in on the case, but I took it anyway. It was personal. He snatched my team, and held it for ransom the next three years, but nobody would drop a dime. The coppers wouldn’t put out a BOLO. The newshawks ignored me. The mugs at talk radio wouldn’t take my calls.
All that was left was to let my fingers do their dance and let the mill spit out my story. It took time, but the story finally stuck, like a pin in a steak done Medium.
The stat geeks knew it, ranking him the#93 best player in the league (a generous one at that). The scribes and talking heads finally started asking why he’s still playing when it’s hurting the team. And the players knew it. They stopped jumping on his pump fakes and started blocking his shots. They picked his pocket, drove by him, and did the one thing he couldn’t take. They made him irrelevant.
At the end, Kobe knew it, too, after one too many 6 for 23 shooting nights. He said it was time to breeze. He filled a farm with his cabbage… 48 million of them. But he’s done and the Lakers have a future again.
My job was done.
*Stand in one place, point where the other players should go, then shake your head in disbelief when the player you were supposed to be guarding hits an uncontested three. (Zubin Mehta was the conductor for the LA Philharmonic, 1962–1978)