Aug 18, 2011, 8:31 PM EDT
We all knew about the happy ending — Kobe Bryant shows up at the Drew League (the legendary pro-am league in Los Angeles) where a bunch of people who can’t afford to sit close to the floor of a Lakers game got to see him in action. Got to see him score 43 points. Got to see him hit the game winner over James Harden.
But now the story of how Kobe got to play in that game is out, and it’s vintage Kobe.
Over at ESPNLosAngeles’ Laker blog, Andrew Kamenetzky (he and his brother are two of the best bloggers around) spoke with Dino Smiley, the commissioner of the Drew League. And he tells the story.
“We had our championship this past Saturday and prior to that, a couple days before, (Kobe’s) representatives called and said he wanted to play Saturday. I wouldn’t go for it. I’m like, “This is the championship and these guys have worked hard. We don’t want to just put the #1 ringer into the game. We would love to have him there, but it would set back the league, the integrity.”
“But we talked about it, and I said, “You know what? We haven’t set up an All-Star game. Why don’t we do an All-Star game on a Sunday night?” He was gonna be leaving out early Monday morning and coming back. Couldn’t do it. So finally, Sunday evening, I get a call. “Kobe wants to play the game, but wants to play at two o’clock on a Tuesday.” I’m like, “Two o’clock on a Tuesday? We don’t play Drew League games during the week.”
“It was ironic, because the team (Drew League All-Stars who will face the Goodman League All-Stars) was going to have practice that day at 6 pm. So I tell him, “The guys are coming down. Let me see if I can get them to come down early. I don’t want to put it on Twitter and I don’t want to put it out to the media or anything like that, and the guy doesn’t show up. You guys gotta give me a 110 percent that he’s coming.”
“And they were like, “No, he’s definitely coming. He definitely wants to play. And he only wants to play in the Drew league in that gym. He doesn’t want to play anywhere else.” And I know it’s because of LeBron [James] and [Kevin] Durant. They played and got a buzz. (Laughs) We were like, “Okay, let’s try to make it happen.”
Because of the players union meeting in Los Angeles that day — where Kobe was front and center — the game didn’t start until like 4:30. But it went off.
It’s a story that is just so Kobe. Durant and John Wall and others just call ahead and get in these runs all the time. Kobe sees the buzz LeBron and Durant get from the rec leagues and so wants in because he wants that same buzz. And because the Drew League is in L.A. and Kobe can pretty much walk on water in that city, a special game is set up just so he can play.
But a month from now, all anyone will remember is the happy ending.
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