CANOE Network SLAM!Sports

 
SLAM! Sports SLAM! Basketball
  Tue, October 28, 2003


NBA NEWS
RAPTORS
NCAA BASKETBALL
SCOREBOARD
COURTSIDE BLOG
COLUMNISTS
COMMENT






PLAYER BIOS
MOVEMENTS
INJURIES
STATS


FIND A PLAYER:
CONF. STANDINGS
EAST STANDINGS
WEST STANDINGS
WEEKLY SCHEDULE
DAILY LEADERS














Crack-ups or cracking up?
Bryant saga the butt of jokes, but life in Lakerland no laughing matter

By BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

LOS ANGELES -- One day you're sports royalty and the next day you're a punchline.

It happened to Ben Johnson. It happened to Pete Rose. It happened to O.J. Simpson. It happened to Mike Tyson. And now it is happening to Kobe Bryant.

This truly is a North American specialty. Guilt or innocence doesn't enter into it. The jokes don't have to be fair as long as they're funny.

On a recent episode of NBC's Saturday Night Live, an element of the Bryant soap opera was lampooned. The humour wisely walked a fine line -- it didn't make fun of the rape charges against Bryant, but rather focused on the relationship between Bryant and his wife Vanessa, which certainly is fertile ground for comedy.

Actors portraying Kobe and Vanessa are sitting in a room, staring at each other with that too-heartfelt-to-be-true devotion which has become their trademark since Kobe's legal woes began. A public-relations man advises Kobe and Vanessa their news conference will begin soon, then gives them a few minutes alone to collect their thoughts.

As soon as the PR guy leaves, Vanessa's mood changes. She tosses aside Kobe's hand as if it were garbage and unleashes a torrent of verbal abuse that would make a longshoreman blush. The PR man comes back a few times, of course, resulting in an amusing see-saw between instant love and instant hate.

At one point when the couple is alone, Vanessa slaps Kobe.

"I hate that," an irritated Kobe says.

"You know what I hate?" Vanessa shoots back. "Going to my husband's rape trial."

It was pretty funny, actually. Funny for everyone except Kobe Bryant, that is, as he prepares for the Los Angeles Lakers' NBA season-opener against the Dallas Mavericks tonight at the Staples Center.

Just enough time has passed since the charges against Bryant were made public that people are feeling comfortable poking casual fun at the situation. This surely isn't what Bryant or his accuser want, but now that the gory details of the allegations are out in the open, the shock is gone.

PRETEND

Barring a settlement, Bryant's trial likely won't begin till next May at the earliest. That leaves six long months for Bryant and the Lakers to immerse themselves in the intricacies of basketball and pretend none of this is happening.

"We're pleased with the way things are going, even with all the adversity," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "Karl Malone and Gary Payton are fitting in very well."

Oh yeah, Malone and Payton. The fact the Lakers signed that duo to form a Fab Four with Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal virtually has been forgotten because of what Bryant is facing in Eagle County, Colo.

Turning the Lakers into a virtual Hall of Fame team seemed like a great idea, but interestingly, the addition of Malone and Payton already has begun to affect the fragile relationship between Bryant and O'Neal, and not in a positive sense.

Bryant and O'Neal had their blow-ups in the past, but deep down they always realized they needed each other. With Malone and Payton now in the fold, Shaq was bold enough to suggest Kobe -- who saw only spot duty during the pre-season -- should concentrate on playing more of a team game till he gets into top shape. Kobe said Shaq should mind his own business. Shaq said if Kobe doesn't like it in L.A., he's free to opt out of his contract next summer.

This Lakers season could get really explosive, folks. There's a lot of tension in purple and gold.

Asked if he's having good days and bad days, Bryant replied, "Every day is a bad day."

The Lakers hope that's not true in terms of on-court performance. After all, this team wants its annual highlight film to get its first run on ESPN Classic, not the Comedy Network.









Do you like the new-look Raptors heading into the 2013-14 NBA season?
  Yes, new GM made great moves
  No, they will still be a terrible team
  Unsure what to make of it


Results | Story