Jerry West sticks his head in the door. "Hey, Kobe, good job tonight. Pretty close, huh?"
"It was a tough game tonight, Mr. West, but we pulled it out. Still working on defense."
West comes into the room and looks up at the TV. They're talking about the old Lakers, and showing fast breaks. 'It's Show Time,' they're saying.
"Remember those days, when it was up and down the court, setting up plays on the run, long passes. You were there. Rebound, one pass, four on two, and score. Those were the days."
"Mr West, come on," says Kobe. "When we get our team all on the same page, get into synch, everybody's healthy, we can do it. Maybe my legs were stronger when I was a rookie. But I'm still fast, you know I am."
"Those faster days," says Jerry. "We'll get there again. That's the Lakers. Show Time." He leaves with a wave. "Good game, Kobe."
Kobe lifts his Red Bull. "See ya, Boss."
What was that all about? Does Jerry think we should be like we were? Fast breaks, Running, Show Time, on every play? We won with Show Time, but come on, you're talking 17 years ago."
Matt Barnes bounces by, sees Kobe, and does an about face. "Kobe? Saw the game. A squeaker, one point, right down to the buzzer." He laughs. "How many of those did I play in when I was a Laker?"
"Matt Barnes? What are you doing in here. Don't you play for that other team? LA Clompers?"
"Came by to get Jodie Meeks. I'm taking him to my tat guy. Get tattoos. Like to get a crown like you got, but it's been done. Back when everything was so exciting. Well," as he looks at the TV, "that excitement, we had, I got it now with the Clippers. You guys were...kinda slow tonight...really..."
Kobe's feet hit the floor and he throws the Red Bull can at Barnes. "Matt go. Get out of here. Go play with your Clompers. I'm trying to relax here."
Barnes ducks, arms up, then waves. "Good Luck, Kobe. You guys'll get it into gear...maybe...someday." Big grin, and he's off.
What? Again with the Slow? Are we that slow? We're a little older, maybe, but come on. What about The Nicks. Look at them. How old are they? Rasheed, Jason Kidd, Canby. How old is Kurt Thomas? 75?
He looks up at the TV.
"...Sports Center will be right back with a list of illegitimate children of NFL players. Darren McFadden, Santonio Holmes, Jason Caffey...there's a whole long, long, loooong list. We'll be right back..."
"...When your back hurts...get the ICY HOT patch. I do..."
Pau Gasol walks in, goes over to the glass door fridge, pulls out a large can of Beaver Buzz, and sees Shaq. "Hey, look it's Shaq, doing another commercial. How many does he do? I see him all the time?"
"Once I retire," says Kobe, "I'll be out of my contract and I'll be doing all those too. Buick, Icy Hot, Pepsi. I've seen them all?"
"They say he makes $20 million for every commercial he does. Not too shabby."
"He's so big, they like that I guess." says Kobe. "I'll be all over the TV too, when I retire." They bump fists.
"Who's better than you?" says Gasol. "That stuff in Colorado, everybody's forgotten by now."
They hear Shaq's voice, and look up at the TV.
"Luv Shaq," says Shaq. "Luv Shaq Vodka. Of course it's what I drink."
"Luv Shaq Vodka? Can you believe." Kobe starts laughing. "Shaq was nothing more than just a huge center. Should have been a football lineman. Now he's everywhere. His own Vodka? Give me a break. If it wasn't for him I'd have 40,000 points, not only 30,000."
"Gotta admit, he's a savvy marketeer," says Gasol. "Shaq's probably known by more people round the world than you, Kobe. I know he's better know than me." Gasol throws his towel over his shoulder and turns toward the showers.
"Damn Shaq," mumbles Kobe. He gulps down the red bull, and chomps off a chunk of his PayDay. "I can do that too, you know. I'm a much better player than Shaq. Hello."
Kobe pops another Red Bull, and rips open another PayDay. We win the game, and all I'm getting here is how slow the team is. And how come I'm not doing more commercials? What is that? More people know Shaq than me? Come on guys, I lead the NBA in scoring. What do people want from me?
He wolfs the PayDay, and gulps the Red Bull.
The door slowly pushes open. Two young high schoolish kids stick there heads inside. They're tall.
Kobe waves them in.
"Hi," one says. "It's a pleasure to watch you in action, Mr Bryant. We're high school all-stars."
"They said it was okay to come back here," says the other. "Just be real cool about it."
"That's okay," says Kobe. "Just winding down from the game. We almost didn't get it done this time."
"Yeah, but we knew the Lakers would win," says one. "The Bobcats, come on."
"They got tired in the last 5 minutes," says the other. "Couldn't make a three pointer to save their lives."
"There was no passing," says Kobe, "just shoot and miss. Good defense won the game."
"Good Luck, Mr Bryant." And they leave. But Kobe hears as they slowly close the door, "Yeah, Kobe. They call him the ball hog. They all say it. He doesn't like to pass to anybody. He doesn't set up shots for anybody else. But he's still pretty good."
What? That's how people see me? Ball Hog? He squeezes the Red Bull can in his hand and shoots it at the trash can across the room. It hits the rim and bounces back behind the fridge. "Damn."
He looks up at the TV.
"...and 5,000 assists for Chris Paul. Officially 6 foot, but...5 10's more like it. Only four other players got to 5,000 assists faster in their career's than Paul, and they're all Hall of Famers...."
Kobe waves his PayDay at the TV. "Don't have to be a good shooter to get assists. You just need good shooters on your team to dish it off to. Shaq are you listening?"
"...and the crowd chanted C. P. Three, C. P. Three, when he got his 5,00 assist. C. P. Three...C. P. Three..."
Kobe points the remote, the TV clicks off. He sits there, snapping the PayDay wrapper.
So, when I retire, Jeeez, 17 years at this. Next year, yeah. It'll be next year. So...How will I be remembered?
A Ball Hog?
Not my Champion Rings? Not my buzzer beaters? Not my scoring points? He was a Ball Hog. That's how they'll see me?
So, okay, I am kind of a ball hog. But...I don't want to be known...I guess...okay, I'll be a much more giving player in the future. All right already, I'll stop hoggin' the ball.
Kobe jumps to his feet, grabs a towel and turns toward the showers, an inspired new spring in his step.
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