Kobe: The Movie, director's cut
The Mag enlisted Hollywood writers to tell the life of Kobe Bryant
ESPN The Magazine: Kobe Bryant Movie
Ed. note: KOBE: THE MOVIE is for mature audiences and contains profanity and mature content.
Photos from the actual life of Bryant. Gallery
SCENE 1 | THE BEGINNING
EXT. SOCCER FIELD (PISTOIA, ITALY, 1991) - DAY
A boy, 13 years old, tall, lithe and ebony, streaks down a beautifully manicured field. His dribbling is incredible. He sports an AC Milan kit.
THREE ADOLESCENT ITALIANS, dressed in soccer kits from various teams, scramble to keep up. The boy, YOUNG KOBE, is smiling. He loves this.
NOTE: IN ITALIAN WITH ENGLISH SUBTITLES.
C'mon, lower. Bend your knees.
Kobe calmly knifes past NICO -- open field ahead. As he nears the goal, he turns for a split second and SEES a car approaching -- could it be? No, the car passes by.
Kobe, refocused, turns his now-narrow eyes toward the GOALIE, speeds up and, in one fluid motion, pivots, flips the ball up, drops to the grass and sends his skinny legs slicing through the air -- a bicycle kick!!
The ball angrily slams into the net. Players are stunned. Kobe turns to check on the road. Nothing.
TIME CUT TO:
FIELD - A HALF-HOUR LATER - DUSK
The boys are sitting on the grass, drinking sodas.
Geraldina is a goddess.
She likes Kobe.
No she doesn't.
One of the Boys reads box scores.
Olimpia Milano won again. Ambrassa scored 36! He's the man.
How did Kobe's dad do?
(shrugs this off)
When's the next practice? Got only three years to be ready
for the World Cup.
Pele was 17 in his first Cup. You think you're Pele?
Boys laugh, one throws the soccer ball at him.
Kobe turns to see JOE "JELLY BEAN" BRYANT, his father. He leaps to his feet and dribbles over to his dad.
Hey pop! You missed my --
Let's go, son.
I'll tell you in the car.
Pop, tell me what?
It's over. We're moving back.
Moving? Again? Italy's my home --
Your home is Philadelphia --
Dad, my friends are here. My football coach says -- !
Damn it, Kobe...
(He gathers himself.)
... I'm done playing. There isn't nothing for me here.
You're going to do what I do someday, and
you're going to do it better, and you're going to
leave on your own terms.
Kobe stares at him hard, ready to cry. But he holds it back. He looks to his friends, locks eyes with Nico.
Different game in the States, Kobe. You gotta catch up.
Three hundred shots a day.
(still on Nico)
Kobe turns his back on Nico, on his friends, on his dad, and marches toward the car.
Kobe Bean Bryant, don't turn your back on me.
CLOSE-UP: Kobe's determined face, as he marches at us, his dad disappearing in the far background.
Five hundred shots.
SCENE 1a | ONLINE EXCLUSIVE | BALLS
INT. SCHOOL CAFETERIA - DAY
KOBE BRYANT (13), sits by himself, eating lunch at a table in the corner. He's tall, but skinny as hell.
SUPER TITLE: "BALA CYNWYD MIDDLE SCHOOL - LOWER MERION TOWNSHIP - 1992"
Dude. You American?
Kobe looks up. ROGER (14), a larger boy, looms over him.
How come you talk funny?
Grew up in Italy. We spent a lot of time there.
Roger considers that, not willing to let it go.
So what's the deal with your name?
My dad picked it. It's Japanese. It means, like,
the king of steaks.
Yeah, well the other guys say you know
your way around a court. Want to go one-on-one?
Kobe sizes up Roger, figures he can take him.
EXT. OUTDOOR COURT - DAY
It's after school. It's cold, with scattered snow still on the ground. A COUPLE DOZEN TEENS are gathered on the sidelines, watching as --
Absolutely smokes poor Roger. He drives to the basket over and over again, effortlessly using off-hand dribble penetration, jab steps, pump fakes. He quickly finishes the game, dunking the ball for his final shot.
Bang. Game over. The other kids CHEER. Roger collapses to the ground, winded. Kobe casually tosses him back the ball.
King of steaks, dude.
INT. BASKETBALL COURT - DAY
SONNY VACCARO (50s), balding and sleepy-eyed, watches a GROUP OF YOUTHS play on the court.
SUPER TITLE: "ABCD ALL AMERICAN CAMP"
In particular, Sonny's got his eye on young Kobe. Sonny reaches into his jacket, pulling out a now vintage Nokia "candy bar" cellphone. He dials, waits a beat --
Gregg. Why don't you come on down here.
Got someone I want you to see.
GREGG DOWNER (late 20s, Caucasian) joins Sonny on the sidelines.
SUPER TITLE: "COACH DOWNER - LOWER MERION HIGH SCHOOL"
Sonny nods across the court to --
Who is now single-handedly holding his own against THREE OTHER PLAYERS, including his nemesis Roger from Bala Cynwyd.
Who is he?
Jelly Bean Bryant's boy. Gonna be a freshman at Lower Merion
this fall. Says he wants to start varsity for you.
Can you believe the balls on that kid?
Downer keeps watching Kobe, intrigued.
Want to hear something else? Claims he's gonna skip college,
jump directly to the NBA. I told him he's nuts. Nobody's
gone prep to pro since Dawkins and Willoughby in '75.
Sonny laughs. They keep watching.
So what do you think?
I think you're gonna be signing that kid to a shoe
contract inside of three years.
SCENE 2 | I'M READY
INT. MADISON SQUARE GARDEN, FEB. 8, 1998
BOB COSTAS is courtside, speaking to the camera.
Welcome to Madison Square Garden for the NBA's
48th All-Star Game. Should be a good one with
lots of intriguing storylines...
MATCH CUT TO:
INT. WEST ALL-STARS LOCKER ROOM
The team watches on TV as KOBE BRYANT laces up his shoes.
... including the appearance of the youngest
All-Star in league history -- 19-year-old phenom
Kobe Bryant, who many have dubbed the
next Michael Jordan.
The guys explode, tearing into Kobe.
Oh, shit! The next Michael, huh!
I'd shoot to be the next KG if I was you, kid.
Fuck that, rook. GP's your play! Play D and be like the Glove.
They all laugh and head out, leaving Kobe alone. Suddenly, a large shadow appears over him, and a booming voice speaks.
Kobe looks up and sees a menacing KARL MALONE.
I mean it is your first All-Star Game.
And you're starting, which is odd since you don't
even start for the Lakers.
Guess the fans see potential.
Yeah, well, some advice from someone
who's been here for the last decade:
Be more of a facilitator than a shooter.
Remember what happened to MJ in
his first All-Star Game? Hate to see
that kind of thing happen to you.
Pass-first mentality, kid.
Kobe stares as the sound of the stadium crowd begins to rise.
INT. STADIUM - GAME IN PROGRESS - LATER
Kobe shoots from the baseline.
Kobe Bryant's first All-Star Game basket.
KOBE SHOOTS A THREE.
Kobe from downtown!
KOBE DOES A 360 JAM.
Kobe's got 18. This kid is not shy!
INT. STADIUM - BENCH - CONTINUOUS
Kobe heads to the bench. He looks over at Malone.
Is that what you meant by "pass-first mentality"?
Kobe laughs. Malone is stunned.
INT. STADIUM - COURT - LATER
Kobe makes a BIZARRE DRIBBLE-BEHIND-HIS-BACK PASS TO HIMSELF and then AN OVER-THE-SHOULDER HOOK SHOT that goes in.
Unbelievable shot! I would say that maybe he traveled on that
one, but I've never seen a move like that. Isiah, have you?
That's something he must have brought back with
him from Europe.
I got Michael! I got Michael!
MICHAEL JORDAN backs Kobe in, makes an up-and-under move and puts it in the basket.
He really took the youngster to school on that exchange.
Pissed, Kobe yells to EDDIE JONES.
Give me the ball!
Eddie passes to Kobe. Michael guards him. SLOW MOTION as Malone sets a pick on Michael; Kobe waves him off.
Clear out! I got this!
Malone is shocked. So is coach George Karl. So are fans in the arena. And everyone at home watching on TV.
I'm not sure I've ever seen anyone wave off a pick
in an All-Star Game.
He wants to go one-on-one with Michael.
Probably every kid in America's dream.
And he's living it.
The crowd starts to chant: "KOBE! KOBE!" Malone heads off the court toward the bench.
Uh-uh. This ain't for me.
Coach Karl screams.
The ref BLOWS THE WHISTLE. Kobe looks stunned.
What happened? I can take him.
Take a seat.
But I dropped 33 on him last month in Chicago.
Kobe stares. Coach Karl nods. Kobe heads to the bench and takes a seat. The crowd still chants: "KOBE! KOBE!" He wipes his face with a towel, sits back and smiles. He loves it.
SCENE 2a | ONLINE EXCLUSIVE | KOBE CARES
In the summer of 2000, the NBA launched a PSA campaign, "Teamwork -- we're in this together!" For their first PSA they chose budding superstar Kobe Bryant.
EXT. HIGH SCHOOL GYMNASIUM - DAY
Kobe exits his helicopter and is greeted by a COMMERCIAL DIRECTOR, who explains how the day will go.
Kobe! Thrilled you're here! Took the helicopter for the
leg room, huh?
No, I took it because it's a helicopter.
INT. GYMNASIUM - A FEW MINUTES LATER
The gym is lit for shooting. Kobe and the Director approach a perfectly ethnically diverse group of 6- to 10-year-olds sitting on a bench at the edge of the court.
So Kobe, first we want to get some footage of you
hanging with the kids -- it's all informal and fun.
Kobe approaches the kids, who greet him enthusiastically.
Hey everybody, I'm Kobe. You kids all in school?
The kids all nod yes.
It's important to stay in school. Unless you've got
freakish talent. Then you go to the NBA.
(looks them over)
But ... I don't think that's going to happen here. So stay in
What is that?
Kobe points to a CHUBBY, TALL KID wearing a Shaq Lakers jersey.
I play center on my team.
(looks him over)
Maybe the offense runs through you this year.
But trust me, that's all going to change.
Take that off. Now.
The Chubby Tall Kid reluctantly does.
Nice man boobs, Shaq. Kazaam, you're a C cup!
The Director pops in.
Okay, let's cut.
(re: Chubby Tall Kid)
Let's get him another shirt.
If he's going to stay on the bench, get him a
Travis Knight jersey, that's perfect.
The Director takes Kobe aside.
Kobe, we're getting great stuff ... But we're a little
light on talking about teamwork ...
I hear you. The problem is my team.
I can't win with these bozos. I need some new kids.
You want us to fire these kids?
Look at them. They're out of shape, they have no drive.
(points out kids)
That one's got a lisp worse than Horry ...
(imitating a lisp)
... "PaTH me the ball!" No THHHHHAnk you ...
(points to a LITTLE GIRL)
... And Carla, she can't keep her finger out of her nose.
I hate that.
That's why I don't pass the ball on the Lakers --
I don't want it coming back with a boogie on the end of it.
Oh yeah, you know why A.C. Green's still a virgin?
Dude's finger is busy having sex with his nostril.
INT. GYMNASIUM - LATER
Kobe and the kids stand under the basket as the Director sets the scene.
Okay, so let's grab the dialogue now.
So Nicky, you're going to say "Team work is great!"
And then Carla, you're going to say, "Because teams work!"
And then Kobe, you've got your line. Everybody ready to try it?
(the kids nod)
And ... Action!
Team work is great.
Because team ...
(she flubs it)
... Wait, what was it?
"Because teams work." Try again.
Because ... um, uh ...
Kobe stares daggers at Carla, whose finger creeps instinctively toward her nose. He calls the Director over.
I can do the line.
The one about team work?
Yep. Give it to me.
Here's the thing, Kobe, I'd love to let you play around with the
script, but we're running out of time with the kids.
Clock's running out? Then I gotta take the last line.
Give me the damn line!
THE ACTUAL PSA
Now shot and edited. A game is in progress. We see Kobe dribbling the ball at the top of the key. An army of children playing defense against him.
IN THE STANDS - we see Kobe dressed as PARENTS root him on.
ON THE SIDELINE - we see Kobe dressed as a CHEERLEADER cheering him on.
And we realize that Kobe is playing all the parts. He's even dressed as a FURRY BEAR MASCOT.
The clock ticks down 5 ... 4 ... 3 ...
The kids on Kobe's team shout for the ball, but he ignores them. Kobe takes off dribbling through the kids, and as time runs out he unleashes a massive dunk that sends kids flying.
In the stands the Kobe-as-parents cheer wildly. The Kobe Cheerleader does leaps and high kicks. The Kobe Mascot does a flip.
As the kid defenders pick themselves off the floor, Kobe hangs on the rim, spotlight on him.
Team work is great. Because teams work!
We're all in this together!
No, keep it rolling. I got another one in me.
PULL OUT TO REVEAL we are watching this in ...
INT. DAVID STERN'S OFFICE - DAY
The commissioner clicks it off.
We can't air this shit.
NOTE: The "Teamwork" PSA was never aired. And the NBA decided instead to go with the campaign, "The NBA, not as fucked as hockey."
SCENE 3 | AN ERA'S END
INT. STAPLES CENTER - RAFTERS - NIGHT, FALL 2003
The golden hue of the LAKERS' CHAMPIONSHIP BANNERS glows in stark contrast to the darkness behind them.
With the NBA regular season just days away,
the Lakers are already in midseason form when it
comes to off-the-court drama. Kobe Bryant is coming off
knee surgery while at the same time facing sexual assault
charges in Colorado. Shaquille O'Neal, meantime, is
looking for a contract extension ... one he claims was
promised in exchange for bringing Karl Malone and
Gary Payton to LA. So far, no deal ... but plenty of
talk from Kobe and Shaq.
INT. LAKERS' TRAINING CAMP - DAY
A tension-filled locker room. Players are dressed in street clothes ... waiting. SHAQ and KOBE give each other cold stares as PHIL JACKSON and BRIAN SHAW enter.
Here's the deal. Anyone has anything to say,
they say it here. Now. And nowhere else. Because
I promise ... it'll get expensive for anyone who does.
Shaq and Kobe's stare-down continues, until finally KARL MALONE breaks the silence.
I know I've only worn this jersey a few times,
so it might not be my place. But I came
here for a ring. And all this talk ain't helpin'.
A few players nod, but the two key players aren't among them.
(waits a moment before)
Yeah, I'll stay quiet. Same as everyone, right?
The words are aimed at #8. Phil nods, knowing that's as good as it'll get.
EXT. LAKERS' TRAINING FACILITY - DAY
Kobe approaches his car but finds JIM GRAY and a PHOTOG waiting.
Hey Kobe. Got a couple minutes?
INT. SHAQ'S HOME - NIGHT
CLOSE ON: A MASSIVE TELEVISION. Slowly, we move away from the screen, which is filled with Jim Gray and Kobe getting to the meat of their interview.
What was your reaction to Shaq
saying the Lakers are his team and everybody knows it?
Doesn't matter whose team it is. Nobody
cares. But ... this is his team, so it's time for him to act like it.
Shaq comes into view, simmering as he watches, an ice bag dripping from his ankle.
No more coming into camp fat and out of shape.
You consider Shaq to be a leader?
Leaders don't beg for contract extensions and
negotiate some 30-million-dollar deal in the media
when you've got two future Hall of Famers playing
here pretty much for free.
The ice bag falls as Shaq springs to his feet.
INT. LAKERS' TRAINING CAMP - THE NEXT MORNING
Karl Malone is trying his best to settle the volcano in front of him.
Calm down, big fella ...
... I'm gonna kill him. I'm gonna kick his ass
the second he walks in.
HORACE GRANT and GARY PAYTON are trying to lend a hand.
INT. LAKERS' TRAINING CAMP - HALLWAY - SAME
Kobe approaches a door. Brian Shaw waits to cut him off.
Kobe, you can't go in there right now. I'm
serious, he's gonna mess you up.
What? Am I supposed to be scared?
He goes in...
INT. LAKERS' TRAINING CAMP - CONTINUOUS
... and it's a quick frenzy of yelling between the two, laced with profanities. Shaw grabs Kobe, while Malone, Grant and Payton triple-team Shaq.
Out of shape?! Who's got the broke-down knee?
I work harder'n you when I sleep, big man!
Don't gimme any your...
... STOP IT! Now!
You think everybody's just gonna line up
behind you? You're such a big leader ...
Shaw finally gets between them.
Outta the way, Bee ... this ain't about you.
Damn right. It's about all of us.
Shaw is seven inches and at least a spin on the scale below Shaq, but he's right in his face.
You run right by Mr. Buss in that preseason game and
yell at him to pay you...
... and you --
But Kobe cuts him off, his words directed at Shaq.
How come you never called me? --
What the hell you talking --
... after everything this summer? How come you never called?
I did call.
No. Uh-uh. You had one of your guys leave me a message.
(hurt in his voice)
I thought you were my friend.
(a half laugh under his breath)
And why would he think that, Kobe?
(Kobe looks at him)
Shaq throws all these parties, you don't come. We say we're
going to dinner, you don't show. Now you're in the middle of
all this and you want us to help you?
Man, most of us don't even know you.
Brian walks away, leaving Kobe and Shaq to turn away from each other without another word.
SCENE 4 | THE DENVER BOOT
Clouds. A CHARTER PLANE bursts through, poised for a landing as WE TILT DOWN to rest on, in the distance, the city of:
SUPER: DENVER, COLORADO, JAN. 7, 2004
A SCHOOL BUS drives through a lower-class neighborhood.
EXT. DENVER - AIRPORT - DAY
CLOSE - WHEELS OF CHARTER PLANE HIT THE RUNWAY
As the plane pulls to a stop WE MOVE PAST WINDOWS until we arrive at one. A face looks out. KOBE BRYANT.
EXT. ROAD - SCHOOL BUS - DAY
The bus stops and WE MOVE PAST WINDOWS until we arrive at one. A face looks out. THE KID, a boy, 12 or so.
EXT. NEIGHBORHOOD - HOUSE - DAY
Small, orange brick, brown lawn with a sickly tree in the center. The Kid crosses the yard and walks to the door.
(NOTE: FROM THIS POINT FORWARD THIS SEQUENCE IS ALL ABOUT HEIGHTENED SOUND AND NOISE. EVERY RADIO, EVERY TV, EVERY DISCUSSION SHOULD CONCERN KOBE, THE ALLEGATIONS, THE IMPENDING TRIAL, ETC.)
INT. HOUSE - SAME - DAY
The Kid enters, pausing as a kitchen TV drones: " ... sellout crowd with more on their mind than basketball ... " His parents sit at the kitchen table, watching the TV, drinking coffee.
Been on all day. Should we be worried?
What, you think there'll be thugs at the arena?
The Kid walks to his bedroom -- a two-bed bunk and a single jammed into a small room. His twin brothers, 9, joystick PlayStation NBA STREET on a tiny TV, paying him no mind.
EXT. PEPSI ARENA - DAY
A group carries signs reading KOBE GO HOME!, NO MEANS NO! and RAPIST! as they chant IN UNISON -- "GUILTY! GUILTY! GUILTY!"
WE BOOM UP TO SEE A CHARTER BUS approaching.
INT. BUS - SAME
Kobe sits by himself in the back. SHAQUILLE O'NEAL, at a window seat, turns and offers a Cheshire cat grin.
INT. KITCHEN - DAY
UNCLE, late 20s, unshaven, slacker, splashes water on his face from the kitchen sink.
Have you been drinking?
Uncle's smirk turns to a grin when The Kid walks in, wearing a zipped-up coat and a smile. Mom and Dad share a look.
The Kid unzips his coat to reveal a flannel shirt. Mom reluctantly nods approval.
INT. BEATER SEDAN - DAY
Uncle and The Kid drive, weaving through traffic. Sports talk is on the radio ... " The guy gets a felony arrest and still gets to work, travel in jets and make millions ... " The Kid stares out the window. Uncle turns the radio OFF.
INT. LAKERS' LOCKER ROOM - DAY
A HAND TURNS ON AN iPOD. Kobe, in his uniform, sits alone, listening to music through headphones. His teammates dress out, avoiding looking at him.
INT. BEATER SEDAN - DUSK
As they drive past a remote parking lot for the arena, a sign says: PARKING $10. Uncle swerves across traffic and turns onto a concourse.
EXT. CONCOURSE - SAME - DUSK
The Beater Sedan parks by a curb. There are a few other cars that have done the same. The Kid clocks a nearby NO PARKING SIGN and looks to his Uncle.
The Uncle shrugs it off with a GRUNT and they get out and begin the long trek to the arena in the distance.
INT. LAKERS' LOCKER ROOM - NIGHT
The players, dressed, hear a MUFFLED SOUND, faint at first, then growing from the arena above until we can make it out ... GUILTY! GUILTY! GUILTY! GUILTY!
Kobe raises the volume on his iPod to drown it.
INT. PEPSI ARENA - NIGHT
Uncle and The Kid find their seats in the upper deck -- nosebleeds -- and even here the CHANT REVERBERATES. The Kid and Uncle share a tense look as the PA ANNOUNCES THE LINEUPS.
The fans come to their feet and the GUILTY! chant gets louder as Kobe trots out and bumps fists with his teammates.
Uncle gives The Kid a look and a smile. The Kid nods, takes off his jacket, unbuttons his flannel shirt and reveals that he's wearing a No. 8 Kobe Bryant Lakers jersey. Fans BOO and TAUNT him. Uncle comes to his defense...
Hey! Hey! He was born there -- it's his favorite player! RELAX!
AT CENTER COURT
Kobe finds his spot, deciding for the first time to look around the arena, locking eyes with fans yelling at him, their faces contorted in anger. GUILTY! GUILTY! GUILTY!
Kobe smiles, cocky, gaining power from their hatred. And then his eyes go to the upper deck and he sees --
THE KID, in his jersey, being pelted with napkins and jeers, terrified.
This freezes Kobe. His smile drops as he stares at The Kid for an extended moment. He snaps to when --
A WHISTLE and the ball is tossed into the air. WE FOLLOW IT AND CONTINUE INTO THE LIGHTS, WHICH FLARE AND BECOME --
EXT. ARENA PARKING LOT - LATER - NIGHT
THE FLARE OF A FLUORESCENT PARKING LOT LIGHT. Most of the crowd is gone. One car leaving has the postgame on the radio: "Nuggets win as Bryant is 8 of 23 for a very quiet 27 points. He'll be hoping for better results when he returns to Colorado for his rape trial ... "
Uncle and The Kid walk silently past, The Kid still wearing his Kobe jersey, albeit under his unzipped coat. They cross the street to THE CONCOURSE.
The beater sedan sits alone. As Uncle and The Kid approach, we see that the front tire has an ORANGE DENVER BOOT on it. They stare, then the Uncle explodes, kicking the car, denting the door. He finally calms, looks straight to The Kid...
There's a gas station a mile up. I'll go call
somebody. Wait here.
(a beat; mimics)
You might wanna zip up your coat.
The Kid looks down at his exposed Kobe jersey, then to Uncle. The Kid SIGNS -- for the first time we realize he's deaf --
Is it true? You think it's true?
The Uncle knows what he is asking. He sighs, shrugs, doesn't sign, just looks at The Kid and answers...
How the hell would I know?
The Kid watches Uncle disappear into the night. He's frozen for several seconds, then he turns to see -- THE LAKERS' CHARTER BUS driving toward him on the concourse.
INSIDE THE BUS
Kobe leans against the window, staring out at the night. And then he sees him -- The Kid -- as the bus passes him, and for a moment, they lock eyes. Then...
Kobe turns up his iPod and closes his eyes.
BESIDE THE BEATER SEDAN
The Kid watches the charter bus disappear into the night, then zips up his coat, hiding the jersey from the world.
SCENE 5 | 81
INT. STAPLES CENTER - LAKERS' TRAINING CENTER - NIGHT
It's Jan. 22, 2006. KOBE BRYANT walks through a dimly lit tunnel. A tall figure steps away from the wall next to a door and engages KOBE. It's DR. JERRY BUSS.
Looked for you in the media room.
(Kobe stops, smiles)
Phil says you've been quiet. You good?
I want you to trust me. Phil knows how
to make these pieces work. Forget the old pieces.
It's forgotten. I told Phil that. We're good.
DR. BUSS shares a quick hug with his favorite player. You can feel the mutual respect. KOBE goes through the door...
TRAINER'S TREATMENT ROOM - MINUTES LATER
KOBE sits on a trainer's table with his back against the wall. KOBE's right knee is being worked on by a TRAINER as a REPORTER (SAM) appears in the doorway.
Missed you in the media room. You
done talking about Phil's return? Look,
Colorado's over too. People just wanna talk basketball...
KOBE winces as the trainer works on his knee.
That doc in Denver didn't get it right, did he?
The TRAINER eyes the interloper and looks to KOBE.
You want me to broom him out?
Sam, you come to check on my heart?
I was asking about your knee.
I read that piece where you question my heart.
You guys are 21 and 19. I'd say the whole team
is having heart issues.
KOBE lifts his headphones, but before he puts them on ...
You got anything else, Sam?
Off the record? You had one of your
worst shooting games ever two nights ago.
I know your knee isn't right. You got
a team of misfits ... Are you still up for this?
SAM waits for an answer as KOBE puts his headphones over his ears. The opening beats of NAS' "The World Is Yours" begin to pump through KOBE's mind as his eyes shut.
INT. STAPLES CENTER - LAKERS VS. TORONTO - NIGHT
"The World Is Yours" continues to play. The Staples Center is rocking with 20,000 Lakers fans. The TORONTO RAPTORS might be 14-26, but with CHRIS BOSH, JALEN ROSE and MIKE JAMES, they obviously came to play.
INT. STAPLES CENTER - COURT - SAME TIME
Kobe stands just off the center circle awaiting the opening tip. We follow the ball as it rises above the court.
BOSH tips it to JAMES, and KOBE backpedals on defense. Throughout the game we hear KOBE's thoughts and disappear inside his mind.
INT. BRYANT RESIDENCE - HOURS EARLIER - DAY
KOBE is standing by the door dressed in a gorgeous suit with an untied tie hanging around his neck. NATALIA, his 3-year-old DAUGHTER, appears with a child's teacup in her hand.
One more cup of tea, Da Da...
KOBE needs to leave but can't resist her cute wish. KOBE sits on a tiny chair and holds a tiny teacup as his daughter pretends to pour tea into it.
INT. STAPLES CENTER - GAME TIME - NIGHT
As we cut through the first quarter, KOBE drains a pair of 20-footers, a layup, and we end the action with KOBE hitting the second of two free throws. The BUZZER sounds...
END OF THE 1ST QTR. SCOREBOARD: LAKERS 29, TORONTO 36
COURTSIDE - SCORER'S TABLE - REPORTERS AND ANNOUNCERS
The scorer's table finds BILL MACDONALD and STU LANTZ.
Even with Kobe's 14-point first quarter,
the Lakers find themselves down by seven.
INT. STAPLES CENTER - GAME'S IN PROGRESS - NIGHT
KOBE makes a steal and DUNKS. He misses a free throw but gets his rebound and puts in a seven-footer. KOBE goes coast-to-coast and lays it in off the glass.
We hear STU LANTZ's voice as we watch KOBE skulk his way to the locker room for halftime.
Lakers continue to underachieve.
Down by 14 points to the Raptors, who
are 12 games under 500 in the East, Bill.
Lakers are losing 63 to 49 at the half. I'm
almost speechless. I said almost, Bill.
INT. STAPLES CENTER - LAKERS' LOCKER ROOM - NIGHT
PHIL talks and draws on the dry erase board as we watch KOBE pull a towel over his head. PHIL's voice fades as we disappear inside KOBE's mind. We hear his thoughts as they race. Different voices colliding...
Doc in Denver didn't get it right -- the
case was dropped when Bryant's accuser
refused to testify -- are you still up for this?
KOBE now stands in the tunnel watching the shootaround for the second half as the voices begin to quiet.
PHIL JACKSON walks past KOBE but stops and comes back to him.
I'm happy to keep talking for both of us if you want.
Keep smilin'. Keep shootin' too -- you can go
as long as you want tonight.
PHIL offers a warm smile and KOBE returns it. These two have fought a few wars together. PHIL leaves KOBE to his thoughts and we disappear back inside KOBE's mind. A lone voice...
One more cup of tea, Da Da...
Again the opening bars of NAS' "The World Is Yours" play...
INT. STAPLES CENTER - TORONTO GAME - SECOND HALF - NIGHT
KOBE looks to see PHIL nodding and smiling at him as if to say, "Keep firing." This makes KOBE smile. He HISSES ... LAMAR ODOM finds him flying upcourt. KOBE nails a 10-foot running jumper...
Uh-oh, I think I just heard the Black Mamba
wake up -- Kobe was hissing for the ball.
Lakers still down by 16, but maybe the Mamba awoke...
KOBE hits a 21-footer, followed by a 26-foot three ball, then another three ... and another.
Kobe has just hit eight shots in a row, including four threes.
KOBE continues to hiss for the ball as LAMAR finds him ... KOBE slams it home. The Lakers faithful ERUPT!
KOBE soars for another dunk, and we cut to the scoreboard at the end of three: LAKERS 91, TORONTO 85
INT. STAPLES CENTER - 4TH QTR - GAME IN PROGRESS - NIGHT
KOBE pulls up for a three-pointer, drains it. And another, buries it. A turnaround 15-footer -- swish.
Kobe is on another planet right now!
That's 72 points for Kobe!
We stay close on KOBE's face through a series of cuts. We hear STU and BILL continue to call out his point total. We see the calm determination that runs deep in KOBE's eyes...
Seventy-nine now for Kobe!
In his mind, KOBE has gone to a place of pure basketball grace. He reads the court like a basketball god, and with no expression, he rains baskets on his mortal opponents.
The buzzer mercifully ends the game. The SCOREBOARD reads: LAKERS 122, TORONTO 104.
Ladies and gentlemen, you have
witnessed the second-greatest scoring
performance in NBA history. Kobe Bryant scores
81 points and takes the Lakers from down
18 in the third to an 18-point victory.
KOBE walks off the court but meets eyes with SAM, the REPORTER ... SAM smiles and raises his small voice recorder as if to say, "Care to say a few words?"
KOBE shares a slightly tired grimace with SAM as he tosses his towel on SAM's head and exits the court.
LAKER NATION stays on its feet cheering for its hero. KOBE again acknowledges the fans with a wave and a smile.
INT. STAPLES CENTER - TUNNEL - OFF THE COURT - SAME TIME
As KOBE reaches the tunnel, he finds VANESSA and NATALIA. VANESSA is six months pregnant and smiling. NAT runs to KOBE when she sees him. KOBE scoops NAT up and carries her in one arm as he leans down and kisses VANESSA.
SCENE 6 | The K.H.C. [Kobe Haters Club]
INT. BAR - EVENING
A sparse bar and four stools, some beer mugs, etc. Four men, all 40-ish, enter. They are BILL LAWRENCE (boyishly handsome, very blue eyes), JEFF "GLOW" GLOWACKI (6'7", played ball at USC, now a suit-wearing financial guy), ROB "MASH" MASCHIO (NYC actor, still prone to a classic "That's what she said!") and JON "J.D." DORIS (a heart surgeon; Bill stole his life and made a TV show out of it). The guys settle into their stools, regress to college behavior (whatever the actors will do) and go silent as a MOVIE SCREEN drops. This screen acts as the TV: Lights go dark, actors turn to it whenever it drops. KOBE BRYANT is on the screen, being interviewed about Game 7 between the Celtics and Lakers. It is June 2010.
It's no different to me, this game --
I don't mean to be a buzzkill, but it's not.
I know what's at stake, but I'm not tripping.
Also, I want to apologize to Michael Jordan
for always trying to sound like him in interviews.
Lights back up as the screen rises.
That's why I hate that guy.
(to Kobe, on TV)
You lose this one, my friend.
You lose the NBA Finals for a third time,
there's no more talk about whether or
not you're this generation's
Jordan, that's for damn sure. Christ, I hate LA.
All the fake tits, no pro football team, no real Laker
fans, just people from other states who latch on to a winner,
right, and they just jam Kobe down our throats, every damn
radio show, every newspaper article, Kobe this, Kobe that,
Kobe, Kobe, Kobe --
(off Mash's look)
I like the fake tits.
To hating Kobe.
As they all toast, the screen comes down. The Lakers' locker room, pregame, tense: DEREK FISHER stretches; LAMAR ODOM literally pours a large bag of sugar into his mouth; RON ARTEST lies on a couch, getting pregame therapy from a shrink; ANDREW BYNUM has bags of ice strapped to his knees -- he and Kobe are so banged up, they haven't practiced once together all playoffs.
It's not a big deal that my knees are this bad five
years into my career, right?
(ignores him, turns to Kobe, IN SPANISH)
I'm actually better than you, but you don't pass to me enough.
We go TIGHT on Kobe. We see his knee, iced, his fingers broken, and his eyes -- DARTING. He's nervous. HARD CUT TO: first-half montage: Kobe shooting and... missing. Often. 3-for-14 in the first half. And looking tired. Old, even. First half ends 40-34 Celtics, we see Kobe walking to the tunnel... LIGHT CUE. Bill looks at his cellphone:
Marcus Jordan, Michael's son,
just tweeted, "No one, and I mean
NO ONE, should EVER compare
Kobe Bryant to my dad again."
In Jordan's last championship game, he missed 20 shots.
Yeah, but he made the one at the end.
Kobe's got help on this team, he just won't
use it. Not enough balls to go around.
That's what she said.
He's blowing it. I wanted him to
play well, you know? Easier to hate on him.
Does that make sense?
(beat, then group AD-LIB)
No. / You're an idiot. / Shut up.
The screen drops again. We see cuts of Kobe struggling in the third quarter. The Lakers go down by as many as 13 points. Kobe finishes the quarter having made only 5 of 20 shots. Phil puts him on the bench for the first 53 seconds of the fourth. He's steaming. LUKE WALTON sits next to him. After a beat:
"Black Mamba" is a really bad nickname.
Who came up with that?
Kobe goes in. At the 9:56 mark, he commits a horrible turnover, runs back to stop the ensuing fast break and is whistled for a blocking foul. He lies on the floor, flat on his back.
Get up. Get your head in the game.
Are you serious, man?
You can't root for that guy.
Not for a second. We're talking
about someone who used to intentionally
keep his high school games close so he could
win them at the end.
He was a kid. He's not anymore. He's 31...
And they all drift to thoughts of their own weekly basketball game. The teams in the first game are always 30 years old and under vs. over 30. The guys share a look, each realizing that Kobe would be on the old-guy team. Back on the "TV" SCREEN, with 5:22 to go, Kobe finally hits a jumper over RAY ALLEN to give the Lakers a four-point lead. Artest hits his three. But did that shot truly win the game? No. With 25 seconds left, only up three, Bryant jacks a three, misses. Gasol rebounds and hits Kobe. He musters his last bit of energy and drives hard, drawing a foul. Bryant walks back to halfcourt, hugs his knees to catch his breath and drains two free throws. Two-possession game. Game over. Bill turns off the TV. He looks at the others. Their faces full of shame. Then:
I'm glad he won.
You're kidding, right? Tell me you're kidding.
Fifteen boards, he worked his ass
off. He cares more about winning
than any other player out there.
He's in so much pain. I get it, you
know? It's like when I try to walk
down the stairs the morning after we play.
This is the Kobe Haters Club!
Hate, okay? Hate drives sports. If your team
doesn't make it, hate is all you have.
Hate on the Yankees, hate on the Patriots,
hate on Kobe. Christ, if we aren't going to hate
on him, what're we going to do? Watch the
Clippers? I'd rather start watching soccer.
(all react, horrified, then, toasting)
To hating Kobe Bryant?
Sorry, buddy. We're out...
As the guys quietly exit and Bill AD-LIBS pleas to stay ("C'mon, he pushed out Shaq," etc.), the movie screen quietly drops behind Bill. Kobe appears and addresses him directly:
You like me too.
You didn't before, but now you do. Just say it.
Don't make me.
Say it to the Mamba.
... I like you.
You want to know why?
Because I'm not some entitled punk anymore.
I am you. An old man. Struggling to not only
stay relevant but to be on top looking down.
And it doesn't look easy anymore. Because it's not.
It's hard work. You like me because I won your respect.
But I'm a sports fan. Fans need villains.
I need one, Kobe. I need someone to hate.
What about LeBron?
Please, that kid's a sweetheart. He's going to stay in
SCENE 7 | KOBE'S ACHILLES' HEEL
INT. GYM - POOL - 3:30 A.M., JULY 10, 2013
KOBE breaststrokes the length of the pool. Every time he breaks through the water, we hear Drake's "Started From the Bottom" blaring. He flips underwater, and we see a brace on his left ankle. He freestyles back.
INT. GYM - 4:03 A.M.
Kobe takes a standing shot at the top of the key. He carefully walks to another spot on the perimeter and takes another shot. His feet never leave the floor, and his TRAINER shadows him closely as he moves to three-point range.
INT. GYM - WEIGHT ROOM - 5:02 A.M.
Kobe does pull-ups with his Trainer nearby. His Achilles is freshly wrapped.
INT. GYM - MASSAGE ROOM - 5:30 A.M.
Kobe gets rubbed down by his MASSEUSE.
INT. CAR - 6:27 A.M.
Kobe rides shotgun as his BODYGUARD drives up PCH. Kobe stares at the Pacific Ocean, then:
I can't go up there, man. Take me home.
His Bodyguard is disappointed but resigns himself to Kobe's direction. Drake's lyrics fade out right at "Fuck a fake friend, where your real friends at?"
INT. KOBE AND VANESSA'S LIVING ROOM - THREE HOURS LATER
VANESSA is there with a MAN. He closely inspects the $4 million, 8-carat purple diamond "apology ring." The door opening startles her. She hides the ring in her clenched fist. Kobe enters and eyeballs the strange man.
Hey, baby. What are you doing here?
Kobe is still looking at the Man.
So we'll talk later. I'll call.
Vanessa ushers him out. She returns to the question mark all over Kobe's face.
Seriously, why aren't you at camp?
He's stubborn. She takes a deep breath and unfurls her hand, revealing the ring.
He was appraising it.
Another long beat, then:
I thought we were working through this.
I thought we were good.
I don't want to wear it anymore.
I don't need this right now.
I want to give it to a women's shelter.
You know that one Halle Berry supports? Maybe that one.
Or the Downtown Women's Center we gave to last year.
Either could use the money.
Vanessa, baby. What are you doing to me?
I'm in the fight of my life and -- Your timing is ...
Who have you been talking to?
(that gets his attention)
She told me that she wanted a prince who would give
her a diamond ring like this one day.
We don't want her to get a ring like that, do we?
(what can he say to that?)
I'm not trying to hurt you. But you said it yourself that
this is going to be your last season. That means it will
be my last season too. And I don't want to go out wearing this
We don't have to lie to each other about this anymore,
because I'm not sorry I married you.
Are you sorry you married me?
He looks her in the eye. His eyes water.
I wouldn't know how to breathe without you.
A tear falls from her eyes, but she quickly wipes it away and looks for a way out of this vulnerable moment. She jokes.
As much as I want to have my way with you right now,
I have to turn you over to 700 kids dying to see you.
I'm not going.
Those families spent a lot of money for their kids
to have their moment.
I can't let them see me like this.
This is the best time for them to see you. You've fallen.
And now they get to see you up close so they can learn how to
get back up.
A smile slips across his face.
You watch one Batman movie ...
You love being down in the fourth quarter.
You love putting the world on your back. Well, baby,
this is your fourth quarter.
And I know you're going to rewrite history by making the
greatest comeback in sports.
She mimics a crowd going wild.
What am I going to do with you?
You're going to follow me ... because I have to get you to
She gets up, and he gently catches her wrist. She turns back and looks at him.
I say we split it. That way both shelters will get some money.
She smiles. He smiles.
Fuck the kids. They can wait.
As Vanessa kisses her man, we:
SCENE 8 | THE VISIT
INT. HOSPITAL ROOM - DAY
It's Aug. 23, 2053. The 90-year-old MICHAEL JORDAN lies in a hospital bed, hooked up to an IV. Age has shriveled his body but not the soul-corroding scorn he feels for his competitors, real or perceived. KOBE BRYANT, 75, knocks, pokes his head in the door.
Hey, man, how ya doin'?
Can I come in?
If you want.
Favoring his left leg, Kobe limps to a chair near the bed. He notices a pair of pants on the chair.
It's been a long time. These your pants?
Are they 900-dollar, oversized, distressed,
acid-washed bell-bottom jeans with holes in the knees and lots
of stitching on the pockets?
Then, yeah, they're mine. Put 'em on the table.
So what happened, Mike?
I had a stroke.
Damn. Do they know what caused it?
I know what caused it. Some damn 6-month-old kid.
I don't under --
Nike thinks that infants are the new untapped market
for the Jordan Brand. They keep telling me "Babies are
the next China." So they thought it would be a good idea if I
did an ad with a baby to launch the "Air Footsie Wootsie."
Oh, you're serious.
Hell yes, I'm serious. Three hundred dollars
a pair. Anyway, I'm at the photo shoot doing
my thing, and this baby starts crying 'cause
he's not getting enough attention.
That's what it was like when I played with Dwight Howard.
Don't interrupt. So the baby's crying, and he's got
these two bottom teeth coming in, and the Nike rep says,
"Look, Mr. Jordan, he's got more teeth than you."
And I'm like, "We'll see about that!"
What did you do?
I grew teeth.
I don't... I mean, I'm not sure --
What don't you understand?
I grew teeth. I willed myself to grow some damn teeth!
But how do you...? How is it possible --
Michael sits up, opens his mouth and juts out his lower jaw. There appear to be three ivory-colored nubs piercing the lower gums of an otherwise toothless mouth.
Hmm. Kinda looks like shards of bone breaking through the
Teeth, bitch! Those are teeth! Baby thought he could
grow more teeth than me!
That fueled me! Now I got three teeth. Baby got two teeth.
Three to two. Scoreboard, baby!
What are you doing here anyway?
Well, I just wanted, you know, before it's too late, I wanted
to tell you how much I... how much I appreciate you, Mike.
I mean, the impact you've had on my life. Your gestures,
your temperament, your game, even your voice... I tried
so hard to emulate it all. And it cost me. I mean, I didn't
know who I was. I was playacting at being me, which
was really just a version of you. All I knew was that I
wanted to be just a little bit better. "24" to your "23."
The only reason I came back from that torn Achilles
was to get one more title and 32,293 points. So when
I retired with five rings to your six, all I felt was that
everything I'd worked for had been a complete failure.
I truly believed my life would just kind of... end. But
then it didn't end. And something amazing happened.
I figured out who I was. Not a lesser Michael Jordan,
but a complete Kobe Bryant. A Kobe Bryant with a
family I love, accomplishments I can be proud of
and a future full of rich, infinite --
Five hundred dollars.
That's how much I won from the Nike rep when she bet me
that I couldn't grow teeth.
Okay. But was it really worth it?
Hell yes, it was worth it. That's the difference between me and
you. You don't have the same fire that I have. Never did.
Kobe starts to get up.
All right, well, I'm glad to see you're doing okay. Take care, old
Hey, where you going? I'm telling you something.
It's my 75th birthday. My family's throwing a party for me.
Even Shaq's gonna be there. He wrote a song for the occasion:
"Since you never found out, my ass tastes like chicken."
Man, you're soft, you know that? You thought you'd
beat me but you didn't. You don't have what it takes.
That's why I'm the best that ever was. You hear me? I won.
You thought you were gonna win, but I won. You hear me,
Kobe? I won!
Kobe looks around the empty room and at the agitated old legend in the bed and smiles wanly.
Yeah, Mike, you won.
Michael smiles joylessly as Kobe exits.
MEET THE WRITERS
Gregory Allen Howard: Scene 1, "The Beginning"
CREDITS Remember the Titans (writer), Ali (story by) NEXT UP Better Angels (producer/writer) BEHIND THE SCENE "As someone who writes true stories, I like to find the thing you don't know about a famous person. Imagine what Kobe could've become had he pursued his first love with the same zeal. It would've been: Lionel who?"
David Goyer: Scene 1a, "Balls"
CREDITS Dark Knight trilogy (co-writer), "Call of Duty: Black Ops 1 and 2" (story editor), Da Vinci's Demons (creator) NEXT UP Man of Steel (writer) BEHIND THE SCENE "Kobe is a real-life hero to millions of fans and I love writing about mythic figures. I'm fascinated with stories depicting heroes before they were heroes -- how they became the icons we know and love -- whether that be Batman, Da Vinci, or Kobe. And I happen to have written this piece while traveling in Italy, where Kobe lived."
Doug Ellin: Scene 2, "I'm Ready"
CREDITS Entourage (creator/executive producer), Kissing a Fool (writer/director) NEXT UP Entourage movie for Warner Brothers (writer/director) BEHIND THE SCENE "I read a quote that Karl Malone was pissed about Kobe blowing off his pick in that first All-Star Game, and when Kobe heard, he just laughed. I love that he never thought anyone was better than him. And he was right."
Jackie and Jeff Schaffer: Scene 2a, "Kobe Cares"
CREDITS Jeff: The League (co-creator/executive producer), Curb Your Enthusiasm (executive producer); Jackie: The League (co-creator/executive producer), Disturbia (producer) NEXT UP Seasons 5 and 6 of The League on the new channel, FXX, this fall. BEHIND THE SCENE Jackie: There's no football in LA. You gotta root for somebody. Jeff: Kobe doesn't care if you don't like him. And that is fascinating. We've never had a non-football athlete on our show. Kobe could be our first. Jackie: Getting everything you want and still not being happy is a true American pastime. Jeff: Once Phil Jackson came, it was just such a crazy time. An amazing parfait of winning and whining.
Mike Rich: Scene 3, "An Era's End"
CREDITS The Rookie (writer), Finding Forrester (writer), Secretariat (executive producer/writer) BEHIND THE SCENE "Kobe is tough to relate to, whether it's his talent or how little he reveals about himself. I wanted to find a moment where he just blurted out what he was really feeling, something none of us ever gets to hear."
John Lee Hancock: Scene 4, "The Denver Boot"
CREDITS The Blind Side (writer/director), The Rookie (director) NEXT UP Saving Mr. Banks (director) BEHIND THE SCENE "Taking on Colorado terrified me, which is why I signed on for it. It's possibly the biggest and loudest of the periods in his life. Instead of embracing the furor, I tried to present it as the smallest and, for one character, the quietest."
John Gatins: Scene 5, "81"
CREDITS Flight (writer), Coach Carter (co-writer) NEXT UP Need for Speed (producer/story by) BEHIND THE SCENE "As a Knicks fan first and Clippers fan second, I'm very objective about Kobe and think he's as great as Jordan. I wrote the 81-point game because it's a feat that may not be done again in the modern-day NBA -- I'm not sure people realize how hard it is to do."
Bill Lawrence: Scene 6, "The K.H.C. [Kobe Haters Club]
CREDITS Cougar Town (co-creator/executive producer), Scrubs (creator/executive producer) NEXT UP I Suck at Girls (Fox), Undateable (NBC), Ground Floor (TBS). BEHIND THE SCENE "This is all about guys bonding over mutual dislike of a sports figure. Rooting against Kobe helped me tolerate the LA NBA scene. When I lost that hatred, I lost a part of myself."
Mara Brock Akil: Scene 7, "Kobes' Achilles' Heel"
CREDITS The Game (creator/executive producer), Sparkle (writer/producer) NEXT UP Being Mary Jane (creator/executive producer) BEHIND THE SCENE "As an extension of my work, I'm always exploring the interior moments of our humanity. We aren't all good or bad & We're just trying to figure out how to keep getting up after falling down."
David Kohan: Scene 8, "The Visit"
CREDITS Will & Grace (co-creator/executive producer), 1993 ESPY Awards (writer) BEHIND THE SCENE "I just liked the idea that the only thing that humanized Kobe and saved him from Jordan's level of bitterness and narcissism was his failure to match Jordan's achievements."
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