The Honesty Zone: Shaq-Kobe Unveiled
In riding the technological wave of the future, I’m typing this column using ultimate efficiency: airplane wireless internet. And let me tell you, it’s the greatest. So great in fact, it’s no wonder they soon plan on charging passengers $12.95 a pop to browse. Luckily for me, today is still part of Alaska Airlines’ free trial period.
Luckier for me still, I am soaring through the clouds on my way to Maui.
Not so lucky for me, I am suffering through a mild case of the morning tropical belly-thunders. This is what happens when you wake up at 6 a.m. after an on-again-off-again few hours of sleep that capped off a late night flight to Sacramento. I’m sure my breakfast of a weird multi-grain banana walnut breakfast cookie (A breakfast cookie? I always thought the only way to mix cookies with breakfast was Cookie Crisp, which scarcely resembled real cookies, might I add. Or cereal. And was also horrible) could have had something to do with the trade-winds as well, but I choose to ignore anything in this situation that could be remotely be seen as my fault.
One can only hope that the Pacific trade winds subside long enough for me to enjoy a soothing Mai Tai or mimosa or two. Or six. Who’s counting?
(One great thing about working for yourself rather than a mega-website; I can write under the influence and no one will care. If anything it will loosen my tongue, making my words more entertaining. But it could possibly induce one of my crafty editors – Britton and Nick – into early balding, due to the frustration of attempting to distinguish the flow of my choppy dialogue.)
(This could be one helluva ride folks.)
Anyway, on Thursday night, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers clinched another title. Kobe’s fifth. Even though the Boston Celtics led 3-2 through five games and nearly outlasted L.A. in the series finale. The Lakers were heavily favored going into the Finals and when both teams were at their peak, Kobe, Gasol, Odom and company – possibly including Andrew Bynum’s geriatric knees at times – should have blown the Big Three-plus Rondo out of the water. Instead, they squeaked it out. But a win’s a win, right?
As great as this L.A. team can be at times, it doesn’t hold a candle to Kobe’s old Lakers. The Shaq Lakers. The out-right dominate Lakers. And yes, the Lakers that somehow managed to crumble to Detroit at the worst possible time.
It you guessed that this edition of the Honesty Zone will take us back in time, back to the glory days of Mailmen hitting on wives of teammates – John Wayne style – you guessed correctly.
The summer of 2004 saw one of the worst break-ups this side of Pitt-Aniston. Worse than the dismantling of the 1998 Chicago Bulls. Worse than the demise of the mid-‘90s Dallas Cowboy dynasty. Much worse than the fall of Cleveland after LeBron James left the Cavs in the summer of 2010.
(Whoops, that hasn’t happened yet. Give it time though.)
Shaq and Kobe. Two polarizing figures, both crack the top-20 NBA players of all-time list.
So let’s take a slide down the vortex of time, going back to that fateful summer. Long before Phil left, ripped the “un-coachable” Kobe in his book, only to rejoin the Lakers, petting Kobe’s tender ego in the process. Long before Memphis Grizzlies GM, Chris Wallace, gifted L.A. with Pau Gasol. Long before this writer was ever born.
(Ok, that’s not even close to being true. But it felt like that was where my rant was going right? The natural order of it all. But definitely not true.)
We all know that Shaq and Kobe bickered all throughout Bryant’s free agency – we also know Kobe strung the Clippers along for no reason other than financial gain/an under-the-table offer of an illegal ownership share from the Lakers, more than Texas just faux-flirted with the Pac-10 – prompting Shaq to either ask for a trade, or Kobe to demand one for the Big Fella. L.A. ceded to someone either way, dealing the dominating big man to Miami.
But in spite of educated guesses, we’ve never quite learned the whole story. Until now that is.
Remember, when we dive into the Honesty Zone, together we will explore the depths of history; flies on the wall, observing interactions as they REALLY happened. No stone will go unturned. EVERYTHING is in play. Well, almost everything. We won’t talk about Ty Cobb sliding spikes high into second, attempting to slash the leg of Jackie Robinson and the words exchanged thereafter. Racism isn’t funny people. But everything ELSE is in play.
Today we go back in time, to the year 2004, the month is July… straight into the Honesty Zone. Stare deeply into the Honesty Zone Spiral. Feel yourself drifting towards the truth…
(Our scene is set in a Malibu penthouse owned by Lakers owner Jerry Buss. Joining him is Kobe, Shaq, Phil Jackson, Karl Malone, Gary Payton and oddly enough, L.A. Times beat-writer Bill Plaschke. How Plaschke managed to keep his trap shut all these years is anyone’s guess. Perhaps we’ll find out why, here and now…)
Jerry Buss: (Standing at the bar, in the midst of a heated discussion. He tears an expensive bottle of scotch away from Bill Plaschke’s grasp, and generously pours two glasses over ice. He takes a big sip and passes the second glass to Phil Jackson.) Look Kobe, you can’t have it both ways. Either you care about the Laker legacy or you care about yourself. Why ELSE would you even be thinking of lunching with Donald Sterling?
Kobe Bryant: Don’t test me Jerry. I will completely cut off negotiations with you. Then you’ll be stuck with the overweight baboon (gestures towards O’Neal) and a Mailman who can’t deliver much of anything these days. Not even a decent pick-up line.
Karl Malone: Come on Kobe! Don’t run me like that. You know I wasn’t hitting on your wife. If anything, I’d hit on Rick Fox’s wife. Vanessa Williams truly is a fox! And I’d totally get her too. Rick is a chump.
Kobe: (Shoots, Malone the eye-darting, blank, furrowed-brow glare he has a penchant for giving after a costly turn-over from a bench player.)
Phil Jackson: The point is Kobe, you know we can’t trade Shaq. He’s the best center since Kareem.
Jerry: And the most popular, might I add…
Shaq: (Snickering, while running his fingers up and down a rolled up glossy poster) Yeah Kobe, I’m the most popular player since Kareem or Magic. Stick with me kid.
Would you stay for this signed Kazaam poster?
Kobe: You’ve got to be kidding me. This is why he needs to go. Everything is a joke to this guy. He’s like a child. Nothing is serious. Not winning, not legacy and clearly not conditioning.
Shaq: (Snacking on a box of Twinkies, shoveling down two at a time.) What was that Kobe? I couldn’t hear you over the sound of my stomach inheriting these crème-filled vehicles of golden delight.
Plaschke: (Giggling, pointing at Shaq, then at Kobe, while pouring himself a tall glass of California Shiraz. Eating one of Shaq’s desserts.)
Phil: Kobe, do you think Michael ever would have left the Bulls? Or refused to play with Scottie Pippen?
Maybe Rodman. I could see that. The Worm was a nut-job. But not Pippen.
Kobe: I do love staring longingly at Jordan’s prizes. But still, I’m sick of being compared to Jordan. I’m going to be better than he ever was. Then again, maybe you have a point…
Shaq: (Interrupting) I am definitely M.J. in this analogy. You know that’s right Kobe. You can never fill these shoes…
(Holds up an unused pair of his size 22 signature Reebok shoes.)
But I’ll autograph a pair for you.
Kobe: THIS is the crap I’m talking about Jerry. Get this orangutan out of town.
Plaschke: (Takes a plug from a flask he pulls from Bus’ coat pocket. Beats chest like a wild monkey, while cackling like a maniac…)
Shaq: Orangutan? WHAT? Could a primate appreciate the great taste and gooey crunch of a Taco Bell Double Decker Taco?
(Pulls out a taco, models it to a camera which isn’t there, crocks his head sideways and takes a big bite…)
Where’s Hakeem when I need him?
Hakeem Olajawon: (Enters room holding bag of Taco Bell items and two drinks) I’m right here Shaq! I thought you might be thirsty, so I brought you a Pepsi from Taco Bell!
Shaq: Thanks Hakeem!
Hakeem: (Exits through the back door.)
Kobe: Seriously? This is real? This is how you’re playing my final negations? I might as well call up Sterling right now.
Jerry: Now hold on a second Kobe. Don’t be brash. Shaq’s just having a good time.
Kobe: Well someone had better wake up and get this party moving before I bail.
Gary Payton: (Wakes up from a mid-afternoon nap, as if on-cue) Sorry about that everyone. I thought I heard someone say “wake-up”.
Am I still in the league?
Plaschke: (Shakes head and takes a shot of Patron.)
Phil: Kobe, you know we need you to win. You frustrate the hell out of me sometimes, but you’re an integral part of this basketball team. It’s just that we can’t trade Shaq. He’s too valuable. What… you want Dirk Nowitski? Trade the best player in the league to a conference foe?
Do you realize how dumb that sounds? There isn’t another deal out there where we can get even close to market value for Shaq.
I just can’t deal with the circus Phil. Shaq should be in a zoo.
Shaq: (Pulls down his shorts, mooning Kobe…) Hey Kobe, would you put on this Icy Hot patch for me? I can’t reach. My rump is sore from sitting here so long listening to your rambling. You aren’t the wizard of rhyme, get over it already. Stop the rants.
Malone: Is there a reason Gary and I are here?
Kobe: Funny you should ask Karl, I was wondering the same thing throughout the Detroit series.
Jerry: (Motions towards Shaq, who still has his pants down) Pull ‘em up Shaq. You aren’t helping things here.
Shaq: My bad boss. I’m just shakin’ the goods. You know, warming them up for your daughter.
Jerry: Say what now?
Shaq: You know, me and Jeanie do the Texas two-step every Friday. Step one is pulling down my pants. Step two is…
Kobe: Just wow. Imagery no one needs to think about.
Plaschke: (Drinking gin, trying to figure out how to turn on the computer sitting at the bar. Inadvertently spilling alcohol all over it. Shrugs shoulders, before taking out a straw and slurping the liquid from the fried computer’s keyboard…)
Jerry: You have been defiling my daughter? Oh Shaq. You know I only allow Laker head coaches to do that. You have crossed the line sir.
Phil: Well Kobe, looks like you’re going to get your selfish way after all.
God, I hate it when you’re right.
Payton: Seriously guys, why are Karl and I here? You called us here. We don’t even live in the state? Karl lives in Arkansas for crying out loud.
Plaschke: (Drunkenly slams bottle of Jack Daniel’s down on the bar, sticks his index finger in the air, preparing to speak…) You are so racist Malone!
Jerry: In light of Shaq’s inappropriate actions towards my daughter…
Shaq: Frequent and repeatedly, might I add…
Jerry: If I bite the bullet and take the PR hit by trading him, will you stop the Clipper shenanigans and re-sign with us, Kobe?
Jerry: Do you care who we get?
Kobe: Nope. Not at all. Just get Shaq out.
Malone: (Puts on cowboy hat, flips through S.I. swimsuit edition…)
I think I’m going to retire boys.
Payton: Me too.
Kobe: No one cares.
Jerry: I can’t deal him to the Mavericks. Inter-conference just can’t happen. We won’t get a better deal, but maybe we can find someone stupid.
Phil: Jerry, maybe I can get Pat Riley to sign off on something like Lamar Odom, Caron Butler and someone else.
(Looks Kobe’s way.)
That ok with you?
Kobe: I honestly don’t care. You do whatever you want. Just get the fat boy out and give me the rock. Nothing else matters.
Jerry: Ok, Kobe, do it Phil. See what you can get. Shaq, I’d never have done this if you weren’t trying to seed a sapling inside of my daughter. Enjoy Miami.