MIAMI -- By the time the Lakers open up their practices to the media, Kobe Bryant usually has downshifted his workout to idly shooting free throws, or has even already made the transformation from player to spectator with ice on his knees as he needles still-practicing teammates from the sidelines.
Bryant's work ethic is the stuff of legends because he rarely allows anybody to see it take place.
Now there's at least a dozen witnesses who can testify to the preparation Bryant puts in: the Miami Heat dance team.
More than 2 1/2 hours before tip-off Thursday, Bryant strayed from his usual pregame routine. Normally, Bryant doesn't touch a basketball on the court until the team emerges from the locker room 20 minutes before tipoff. Instead, he went through an extensive shooting exercise with Lakers assistant coach Chuck Person on the American Airlines Arena floor.
As Mötley Crüe's "Girls, Girls, Girls" blasted over the P.A. system Bryant silently took shot after shot, mixing in drives to the lane he finished with pull-up jumpers and straight-up catch-and-shoot attempts from spots all around the perimeter, playing a personal game of around the world.
His diamond earring glittered red, reflecting the color of the Heat logo being shown on the video screens around the arena, but his right arm shined even brighter as he rolled up his already sleeveless shirt to leave the arm free as it became drenched in sweat by repeating the same machine-like elbow-in, wrist-snapped, arm-reaching-toward-the-roof motion.
Bryant finished the session at the free-throw line and by that time the dancers' music had been cut off so all you heard in the near empty arena was the thwack of swish after swish, interrupted only by the sound of a loud clank off the rim (the microphone attached to the speaker system was turned on), the huffing and puffing of Person's breath as he chased down the rebound and the mutter of a curse or two by a disappointed Bryant.
"I'm not tripping [about my shot]," Bryant told reporters Tuesday after a five-for-14 shooting night against Indiana extended his slump to 24 for 70 (34.3 percent) in his last four games, but now there's proof he is at the very least practicing it.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.