Tuesday, February 16, 2010
In the helicopter with Kobe Bryant
By Henry Abbott
Writer J.R. Moehringer -- he of The Los Angeles Times, then "The Tender Bar," and Andre Agassi's memoir "Open" -- has written an amazing Kobe Bryant profile that appears in the March issue GQ (and online -- a tad PG-13).
The profile tells the story of Bryant's career through the various injuries he carries with him. It also takes us into the helicopter Bryant uses to get to work from Orange County, where Bryant lives in a house that Derek Fisher says he has never been to.
Some of the many reasons it's must-read:
- A description of Bryant's injured right index finger, which is "three different shades of purple and five kinds of black. He can't bend it, can't wiggle it, can't even make it twitch. He arrives at this private airport carrying it slightly away from himself, like a wounded bird."
- This great line about how people react to seeing Bryant: "Passengers and pilots in the airport stare. They don't bother to pretend they're not staring. They stare with eyes and mouths wide open, faces frozen, like victims of a Taser or a taxidermist."
- A typical night's sleep for Bryant is one two-hour nap starting at 10 p.m., followed by another two-hour nap starting at 4 a.m. In between he watches movies or noodles around on the internet.
- Insight into how Kobe Bryant learns about the world from his friend, actress Hillary Swank.
- An amazing and emphatic "no!" to the idea of sitting down, over dinner, to reconcile with Shaquille O'Neal.
- When Bryant joined the Lakers, he was so young his parents had to co-sign the contract.
- There are certain things Bryant will not discuss. One of them is his secret Cream of Wheat recipe.
Then there's this exchange:
He insists this win-at-all-costs mind-set doesn't carry over to the rest of his life. "What people see on court is another side of me; it's not me. That dark side that's coming to get you -- ha ha! I'm not losing this f---ing game -- that's not who I am. That's part of me. Off the court, I'm completely different."
In almost the same breath he admits that a simple game of Cranium with his wife can turn into guerrilla warfare.
Cranium? The kids' board game? With Sensosketches and Cloodles?
He purses his lips, nods his head slowly: No joke.
The article also has a running theme of people trying to explain Kobe Bryant (he seems like ...) and getting it dead wrong every time. The memo is that the guy is not to be summed up that way. But with Moehringer's time in the chopper, human insight, and gift with language, he's one guy I'd really like to see answer that question.