Kobe Bryant andthe Lakers have gone down a rocky path of late, and a permanent separationcould be in the cards (perhaps by the time you read this). SI retraces theKobester's footsteps over the last five months, taking his happinesstemperature along the way
[This articlecontains a complex diagram. Please see hardcopy or PDF for details.]
Three hours later, in an interview on ESPN Radio with Dan Patrick, Kobe says hewants to remain a Laker for the rest of his career. Apparently, he misquotedhimself earlier or couldn't hear what he was saying over Stephen A.'svoice.
In an interview on NPR with Stephen A. Smith--just kidding about NPR; it wasactually 1050 ESPN Radio in New York--Kobe says that the Lakers have not gottenhim nearly enough help on the court and that he wants to be traded.
Another five hours later, upon being questioned by Mike Bresnahan of the LosAngeles Times, Kobe says never mind what he said to Patrick, what he said toSmith is what's real. Kobe is clearly angling for a best-of-five, but it'sgetting late.
Kobe meets with Lakers owner Jerry Buss in Barcelona: Kobe is there onvacation; Jerry flies in from China. Much to Buss's disappointment, Kobereiterates his desire for a trade. They have the paella, however, and it's todie for.
Amateur video footage shot in late May in a SoCal mall parking lot surfacesshowing Kobe trashing young teammate Andrew Bynum and Lakers general managerMitch Kupchak. Kobe decries modern technology in a massive text message sent toone billion of his biggest fans around the world.
Kobe meets with Kupchak at the team offices. Afterward, neither comments on thespecifics of their conversation, but it's believed the G.M. advised Kobe toswitch to Verizon.
While covering the U.S. national team practice at the Cox Pavilion on thecampus of UNLV, a gang of reporters earnestly chronicles an interview between asurprisingly cordial Kobe and longtime critic T.J. Simers of the Los AngelesTimes. This proves conclusively that, even in Vegas, there is not nearly enoughto do. During the interview Kobe says he and Bynum have talked and "we'refine."
Kobe hits the game-winning shot in an intrasquad scrimmage that caps asuccessful U.S. training camp. Watching at home, Bynum notices at least twoteammates who were open when Kobe took the shot.
MediaTakeOut.com, a website specializing in "urban gossip," reportsthat Bryant and wife Vanessa are on the verge of divorce. (The story is pickedup by the website of L.A.'s CBS affiliate but quickly removed.) Recentheadlines from this site--we're not making this up--include: WHY IS DENZELWASHINGTON AND HIS GREASY JHERI CURL HUGGIN' UP ON JULIA ROBERTS!!! AND R&BSINGER MARIO: MY MOTHER IS A CRACK HEAD!!! Kobe denies the divorce story anddefends Staples Center regular Denzel's hair as "so not greasy."
Kobe gets a thunderous ovation from the Jimmy Kimmel Live audience and, lookingmarvelous in white slacks and a light green blazer with cream pocket square,reveals that he tweaked his back while vacuuming the house under orders fromVanessa, whom Kimmel introduces to the studio audience. He shoots! He defends!He cleans the damn house! Take that, MediaTakeOut.com!
As Kobe stands at the foul line during the United States' 123--59 rout of theVirgin Islands in the FIBA Americas Olympic qualifier in Las Vegas, the crowdsurprises him with a chorus of Happy Birthday in recognition of his 29th. Kobeponders that rare arena serenade that doesn't include the phrase Ko-Be Sucks!and goes on to play superbly as the U.S. storms through the tournament.
During the Nike-sponsored Kobe Bryant Supernatural Asia Tour, Kobe delightsaudiences in five cities with a smorgasbord of slam dunks and gives thanks thatthere are no teammates on the floor to pass the ball to.
At the Lakers' media day before the team opens camp, Bynum denies Kobe's claimthat they had talked over the summer. Kobe later clarifies his earlierstatement to say that they had exchanged text messages, though Bynum doesn'tremember that either. "Kwame Brown might not be much of a player," saysBryant, "but you send him a text message, the dude is on top of it. I'mthinking maybe he should start at center."
Responding to the previous day's out-of-the-blue comments by Buss that he"would certainly listen" to trade offers for Bryant, Kobe crypticallysays in a statement that Buss's remarks "provided more insight to aconversation we shared in Barcelona earlier this summer." Turns out Bussdidn't like the paella all that much either.
Kobe returns to practice after staying away for three days in amight-be-a-minor-injury, might-be-a-boycott absence that is construed by manyas his stronger response to Buss's Oct. 10 remarks. As SI went to press onMonday night, number 24 was still in the purple-and-gold fold--but if you runinto him, make sure the batteries are working on your camera. He might havesomething to say.
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH (MOOD METER)
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II/1DEUCE3 PHOTOGRAPHY
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH
ETHAN MILLER/GETTY IMAGES
DENNIS M. SABANGAN/EPA
PETER READ MILLER