Kalani Simpson Sidelines

Kalani Simpson

Basketball doesn’t
stop for anyone

THE security guy didn't think it was a big deal. The most aggressive "get back" guy from the private security firm hired by Kobe Bryant (and then the Lakers) said he'd seen much more upheaval at your standard movie premiere.


"'Spider-Man'," the guy said. That was worse than this.

Shaq didn't think it was a big deal. He made sure to aim an approving wink and a grin at an L.A. writer who'd turned a few deft phrases that morning (and presumably hinted correctly at how the big guy really felt about this whole affair). Then the man immune to earthlings or any group of earthlings leaned back with a smile to enjoy the show.

The Lakers didn't seem to think it was a big deal, lounging, shooting, winding down as the foaming media heated up. Gary Payton and Karl Malone had their knees iced. Rick Fox rehabbed, oblivious to the whole thing.

A basketball bounced into a TV tripod, on the outskirts of the mob surrounding Bryant at his arrival at Lakers camp, the crowd around him a good 100 strong.

A perfect metaphor. A season doesn't stop for silliness like this.

Basketball doesn't care.

Only Eric Chenowith halted to openly gawk at the madness.


Oh, the PR guy thought it was a big deal. He made an impassioned, pre-emptive plea to keep the rioting to a minimum. Yeah, right. The security guy was overwhelmed. There was pushing. Shouting. The Lord's name in vain.

Kobe was Kobe. He tilted his head, in that way he does, while speaking in that familiar Jordanesque cadence. He leaned forward, the better to hear you (how polite). He answered every question, if leaving a few still unanswered.

"I asked him how he was doing," Phil Jackson said, after an "under the weather" Bryant had showed up a day late. "He said he was better."

Had he said anything at all to his teammates about his situation (having been accused of the rape of a 19-year-old in a lonely Colorado hotel room)?

"No," Bryant said.

He'd tried to put on a brave face in those final moments of practice, reaching up to grab the bottom of the net without jumping, joking, flashing his priceless endorser's grin.

He'd walked through the gym doors to a teammate's welcome that morning, hugs from one and all as the guys got up from stretching to greet him.

"He came right in," Payton said. "Shooting, playing, relaxing with us, smiling, giggling. Doing the same things that he's been doing. He didn't come in here no different."

But he did. If you didn't read the court papers you could still see it in his eyes, and he admitted it, too. He was shook up over the mess he's in, the effect the whole thing has had on his family.

"I felt like I could deal with it," he said. "I have to deal with it."

He does.

The rest of them?


Basketball doesn't care.

"When y'all ain't in here," Payton said of the practice gym, "we're having a good time. We ain't thinking about nothing else."

The season surges forward, like a media avalanche burying a security pro.

Kobe showed up to camp -- finally, to a furor -- and the veterans didn't bat an eye.

Said Bryant, "They're watching me go through this while playing a game. What's hard about that?"


And behind him stood that security guy, ever vigilant. The rush had overrun him, and he knew there was nothing he could really do. So he picked one spot, directly behind Bryant, one spot he could control. Anyone within 3 feet of him, from that exclusive direction, anyone who dared slip his microphone in from that single location, was busted, and hastily shooed away. It was silly, really. But it was the only thing he had left.

That's basketball for Bryant, if he's lucky. The one thing in his life he can still control.

But that ball came rolling into the press conference. Basketball doesn't care about your problems. The season is coming. Clear the court.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Kalani Simpson can be reached at


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