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L.A. Diaries: Catching up with Kobe Bryant


PhilBoxing.com




LOS ANGELES -- The smell of bread burning in the toaster rocked me out of my rum-induced haze as I sauntered inside the dining room of the Howard Johnson hotel where guests were treated to a complimentary breakfast.

Not a breakfast person, I toyed with a bagel and lathered it with butter and grape jelly. I ignored the juices but grabbed a blood red apple which I nibbled in the car while running personal errands on Day 3 of my L.A. saga.

My sidekick, Anthony, a health nut with a black belt in jetkundo, asked me to join him at nearby Fitness M for a quick workout. I played deaf and showed a polite disinterest toward the invitation. Really, the only exercise I'd like to do is to run to the buffet table.

After another delightful lunch at Good-Ha Express, I spent the rest of the afternoon in the hotel room to do some editing work for PhilBoxing's NBA page while dusting up my exclusive Manny Pacquiao interview feature which will post soon at NBA.com Philippines.

At about 6:30 pm, my rented Nissan Altima was cruising along Vermont avenue. After a slight left turn on Pico boulevard and another left turn at Figueroa street, Anthony and I arrived at Staples Center, a manageable trip which my phone's GPS calculated to be 2.8 miles and 12 minutes long.

The Chick Hearn press room is one of the nicest press rooms around the league. Named in honor of the longtime Lakers broadcaster, the media hive is incredibly spacious, beautifully well-lit and adorned with flat screen TVs all over.

The food at media dining was terrific --- tacos, salads, hotdogs and an impressive array of drinks. I jousted with a plate of salad and had a hotdog for a main course. And I'm proud to say I resisted the temptation of raiding the ice cream bar.

Although the Lakers have long been eliminated from playoffs contention with a sorry 20-54 record, they still managed to pull in a thick crowd of 17,165 loyal fans. From my assigned seat at section 117 it was impossible not to notice that the arena was crawling with beautiful women, which is why I sustained a stiff neck.

After leading the half 60-49, the New Orleans Pelicans put the Lakers out of their misery with a third quarter spurt that extended their lead to 84-64. The Lakers, who were led by Fil-Am Jordan Clarkson's 18 points and 10 assists, offered little resistance after that and eventually succumbed, 113-92.

All-Star Anthony Davis had 20 points for the Pelicans, who shot a blistering 56.4 percent from the field (41 of 78) and a high 56.3 percent from the great beyond (56.3 percent).

The highlight, though, at least for me, was the brief chat I had with Kobe Bryant.

Although inactive for the rest of the season following a right rotator cuff surgery, Kobe showed up at the game and cheered on his teammates. He did not do any interviews but Kobe kindly obliged when I approached him.

"Hey, how are you?" the Laker legend asked.

While I have interviewed Kobe so many times over the years, I still melt in his presence. But I did somehow manage to croak, "I'm fine, thanks for your time."

We spoke for a couple minutes on a topic that he asked I keep private for now. As we exchanged pleasantries, I told him that his millions of fans in the Philippines are rooting for his spectacular return next season. After flashing an appreciative smile, the Black Mamba gave me a fist bump before slithering towards the private players' parking lot.

I'm not in a hurry to leave this green Earth, but meeting Kobe feels like heaven.


Photos: The author talking with the great Kobe Bryant (top) and with Chris Duan, a Filipino from Canada and his wife Diana Fong, came to L.A. just to watch the Lakers (above)


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Homer D. Sayson.


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