Game Notes: Lakers @ Raptors

by February 04, 2008
9

By: Holly MacKenzie

Before I start out saying anything, I want to send out a warning that these particular game notes are going to read more like a journal entry. This was my game, my guys and my dream. If you want only notes on the game, skip through all of this because you are about to be flooded with some serious Kobe love! Our boy Mutoni was cool, calm and collected as he got some great notes so make sure you check out his experience, especially if you can’t stomach my love-fest.

You all know I have been a fan of the Lakers since I was a little girl, that Magic was the one who made me a fan and that Kobe is my favorite guy but, I feel like I need to provide some background so you can understand WHY this past Friday, February 1st, 2008 was the best night of my life. Yes, life.

Kobe is my MJ. While I watched Michael and loved him along with the rest of the world, I did not truly appreciate his greatness or all of the things that he was doing on the basketball court in the first half of his career since he was drafted the year before I was born. This is where KB comes into play. Without Kobe I have no doubt that I would not be here, writing for SLAM today. My passion would not have been fulfilled and I would probably still be looking for my place in this world. To put it simply, Kobe Bryant IS basketball to me. The two will forever be linked and joined as one in my mind.

In a way, I have grown up with him, appreciating his game and both celebrating in his successes and struggling with his failures (both on and off court). I was 11 years old when I saw the skinny but confident kid announce he was going to take his talent to the NBA. I was an 11 year old girl who’s love for ball was growing by the game and everyone around me thought it was a phase. While Kobe was doubted by the media as a guard making the jump to pro, I was laughed at when I said I was going to be a sports reporter. Rather than give any of that a second thought I chose to believe in Kobe and in turn wound up believing in myself. His determination, passion and heart became ingrained within me and it is for that reason that he is a hero to me.

I have learned the simplest of lessons from Kobe, but they are the ones that many people never learn; When you find what it is that you truly love, throw every ounce of yourself into it and it will come back to you ten-fold. Lay it all out there so you never have to sit and wonder. If you believe it will happen it doesn’t matter how many people don’t. I could go on, but, you all get it. I took Kobe’s maniacal approach to training, focusing and being the best and tried to apply the same energy and drive to my own life. So far, it has worked out pretty well and it has been a wild ride along the way watching him grow into the best player in the game.

Now, onto the night itself.

It is Thursday night and I am watching the Suns/Spurs game and checking weather reports obsessively. Huge storm, horrible conditions, should take effect by early morning. Because I was so damn hyped for this game, because I had been waiting for this moment for the past 12, 15 years of my life, I could not sleep. I tried to take my mind off of things, listen to some music, pack, write, watch Kobe’s 81-point game, but it wasn’t working. I gave up on trying to sleep since I had to get up before six anyway and spent way too much time imagining my breakdown if the weather kept my grounded.

Blessed but stressed, my flight was one of the last to arrive before they started canceling things. I am a lucky, lucky girl. On my flight, I was sitting beside a man and his young son who immediately upon seeing my copy of SLAM said, “I’m going to the Lakers/Raptors game tonight”. I told him I was too and suddenly, I had a friend for the rest of the trip. The kid was maybe 8, and knew all of KG/Allen/PP’s stats, liked Iverson, loved the Raptors, but, LOVED Kobe. While his dad fell asleep we got to talk about our boy. It was the perfect flight.

Get in to Toronto and it is mayhem in the airport. People are everywhere and flights are being canceled, I am so thankful to be there. I sat down to calm down and get some work done before I met my friend. I had forgotten to turn my phone back on but had arrived at my friend’s apartment to get ready for the game. I had to check in on my Lakers website because one of my coworkers was going to email me some Laker info, but the site was down. I immediately knew something was up, so I grabbed my phone and turned it on. Within minutes I had over 20 messages and texts from people all over the damn world with the news. Kwame and Jay Critt plus picks for Gasol. I had to read through three or four messages before I believed it. First off, freaking GASOL for Kwame?! Gasol on our team. Tonight. There has been a Laker trade and I was going to be there in the middle of it.

To add a little more drama, I was supposed to meet with Jay Critt during media access. I was a little steamed because he hadn’t returned my calls and texts before the game to confirm a time and he is always really cool about texting or getting back to me. Little did I know what was going down!

Of course, in the flurry of texts from LA, Minnesota (thanks Myles!), Nova Scotia, London, Vancouver and Toronto (Laker love stretches across the globe!), I didn’t get to the ACC until just before five. Not that I was late at all, but I wanted to be there nice and early to mentally prepare. This was a big night. This was THE night. I still hadn’t decided by the time that I arrived if I was going to risk talking to Kobe and having my image of him ruined or just let it slide, but I was there.

I waited around for Mutoni’s call to say he has arrived, but, he was running a little late and it looked like I am going to have to face my dream solo for now. The Lakers are on the floor warming up and I am about 10 feet away from them. This is nothing like the Suns or the Raptors, Golden State or any other team in the NBA. This is special. I see Farmar, Brian Shaw, Vlad-Rad, Mbenga, Sasha, Coby Karl and Ronny all on the floor. They look loose, relaxed and happy. Good sign, after the rough loss in Detroit the night before.

A quick walk towards the Laker locker room to wait for things to open up and I am nervous. I’m checking my phone like a madwoman for Mutoni, wanting some support in all of this, but, it is time to head in and pray my childhood franchise is really as golden as it looks.

When I step into the locker room, it is completely empty besides me. I guess everyone knew the guys were not out yet so they were waiting around in the hallway. This worked out well, because I got to have the most amazing moment ever.

Imagine, you are standing in the middle of the locker room of your favorite team. There are purple and gold uni’s hanging in each locker, fresh kicks sitting underneath the benches, a spread of fruit, and protein bars along with Gatorade in the middle of the room. Voices of guys joking and laughing can be heard behind the door separating the training room and showers from where you are and you know those happy voices are your guys that you stay up until 3am watching and have done so ever since you can remember.

And there I am. In that moment every inch of my body, every fiber of my being tingled with goosebumps and I froze in place for 5, 7 maybe even 10 seconds, taking it in, breathing slowly and letting every bit of that room sink into my memory and etch itself into my brain so I would never forget. Masking tape with hastily scrawled numbers in red marker signifying who was where. Odom to my immediate left, DFish, Vlad-Rad, Sasha, Mbenga along the next wall with Ronny then the shower entrance with Luke, Coby Karl and Farmar along the other wall. To my right the locker with the most space around it is number 24. Two bottles of red Gatorade sit on top of the locker, a suit is hanging, toiletry bags stacked inside with a scarf folded up neatly on top. Man, I didn’t think the locker room itself would get to me like this, but it did. The sight of those uniforms made my throat catch and while I wish I had a camera, I will never forget.

I leave the locker room and see Stu Lantz and Joel Myers in the hallway. The guys who have brought me LA games since the loss of the greatest, Chick Hearn. Lantz nods at me like he knows me and I get a thrill out of that. Starstruck and I am not even in LA.

Back into the locker room and here are my guys. Sasha is the first that I see, grabbing a drink while Vitti barrels in and pushes him out of the way. Time to get to work. I ask Sasha if he’s got time to answer some questions and he almost looks surprised that he was asked. He is really sweet and his hair doesn’t even look as bad when it is not stuck to his head with sweat. His accent is pretty thick but he gives me good answers and talks about how great it feels to be able to help out his team after working really hard in the summers to try and improve his game and get stronger. Says that it was an adjustment to get used to the NBA but, they are having a lot of fun playing together and he thinks they have a great chance this year. Personally it is his fourth year and he is looking forward to trying to have a breakout year. He feels he is playing okay but knows he can improve his game a lot more. Very nice guy, very low-key in the locker room too.

Ronny and Odom hanging out now. Mbenga has two huge ice bags on his knees and is on the floor doing abs for what seems like forever. Suddenly there is a rush of people crowded around 24’s locker and all I can see is an ear, but, I know it is the guy I’ve been waiting for. I try with no avail to get closer in the scrum so I can hear and record what he is saying, but, this is Kobe and no one was willing to let a girl in. He talks about Pau and how excited he is to have him on the team, that he has a high basketball IQ and is very talented. To be honest, I didn’t really catch much of it, not because I was on the outside of the throng of media but, because I had a moment where everything just seemed so surreal that I kind of lost my memory of it. If that makes any sense.

Kobe has left the locker room, escorted by a man and woman. Not sure who they are.

Hang out by Lamar’s locker for a second but, I don’t interrupt him. He is being interviewed by a media guy from one of the LA papers and they are laughing up a storm. He talks of Pau and how much it will help them in all aspects of the game. Even in these few seconds, I am surprised by how big Lamar is. He is huge. Like, Amare huge. And while he seems calm and sometimes removed from the game when he plays, he has this crazy air of intensity around him, even while sitting there with ice dripping down his legs on the floor, writing “Grandma” on his shoes in silver marker.

Sitting at his feet are the longest dress shoes I have ever seen in my life. Brown and as long as canoes they were probably as long as my arm from shoulder to wrist. No joke.

Make my way out into the hallway and there he is. Kobe Bryant. Standing alone, with a man and woman on either side of him. There are media people around, but no one is talking to him. I’m shocked at how much smaller he is than I had imagined. I guess that is partly because he has been larger than life to me. He actually isn’t that small, but, very, very lean. When he said he dropped pounds this summer it has never been more evident than there in person.

I take a deep breath and move towards my destiny. The moment that will really make all of this hit home. Interviewing the guy who made me fall in love with this game, trust myself and my own dreams and reach for them no matter what the world thought. This moment was bigger than big for me and I was scared.

No need. I walk up and give a simple, “Hey Kob’?”. He turns around, breaks out into a huge smile, and says, “Hey, how are you doing?” Somehow, I manage to find words while inside I am slightly panicking because in all of the times I had imagined this or tried to plan for it, I never really got past the “Hellos”. I introduce myself and say I am an intern with SLAM and the love grows from there. The smile gets bigger and he says “Okay, okay,what’s up? How are you liking that?” I tell him I’m loving it and he laughs then shakes my hand.

I have a total moment of awe where all I can think is “this is the guy who scored 81 points with these hands”. I ask him how he’s feeling, big road trip coming up, big things happening for the team. Says he feels really good, he has been taking care of his body, gearing up for the rest of the trip and things are good. I ask if he minds giving me a quote about the trade because I was unable to get it from his press conference because I couldn’t see/hear. He laughs again and says no problem then talks about Pau’s experience with both the NBA and international competition, it is always tough to see guys leave the team, but he is excited for Pau to join the team and for them to get started. He starts to say he feels it is an important step to—-

Cabbie from The Score comes busting in to hug Kobe and say they are ready for him on camera. Kobe points to me and says he will be ready in a minute and then Cabbie quickly apologizes for stealing my interview, but I figure that is my chance to be cool and let him go do his stuff. Lord knows I was just thankful enough to even get some time with the guy one-on-one, pregame, I didn’t want to push it, not when it was going this well. I told Cabbie it was cool and Kobe that he was good to go and he stopped me and made sure. “Are you sure? Did you need me to answer anything else?”. I told him it was all good. He said to catch him after the game and then he grabbed my hand to shake it, and gave me the hug/pat. Oh yes, you know which one I mean and yeah, you know I was loving that. As he walks away he looks back smiles and winks while Cabbie apologizes again for stepping in. Someone could have cut off an arm and I don’t think it would have registered at that point. Having the one and only Kobe Bryant be that down-to-earth and just cool, it was…..As big as Sam’s Giants winning the Superbowl. A moment I will never forget.

Alone in the hallway I have a little moment and call my mom and then a few of my closest friends and then Myles. Myles has just returned from getting a haircut and I’m not sure if he knows how to deal with my joy over the fact that Kobe was better than ever imagined, but, he does a great job of listening.

Finally I get a text from Mutoni and I make my way to the media room to meet one of SLAM’s finest. He did not disappoint. From the second I saw him and gave him a hug, I knew we would get along just fine. Simply put, the man behind the Wire is delightful. We go into the locker room and listen to Lamar talking about rap and this great rap website as he flips through some magazine. I wanted to ask him what the site was but, he made me nervous for some reason.

I nab Derek by his locker. Fish has got to be one of the classiest guys in the league. Because he has been asked about the trade all day, I tell him I want to switch gears from the trade to how it feels to be back in LA where he started his career now 12 years later leading this young team with Kobe. He says it feels great to be back and that he and Kobe are the old guys on the team now. He wants to lead by example and help the team get better and he is enjoying being back with Kobe. I get to tell him that as a lifelong Laker fan it feels wonderful to have him back where he started, leading the team. He thanks me and I know he means it. The guy is all class.

Next up is Ronny. This was an interesting exchange. Standing by the table of food and protein bars I introduced myself and I got the look that I have only gotten a few times before that lets me know he really doesn’t have any interest in talking to me. When I ask how it feels to be getting credit for being an emotional leader on the team when he has been like this since he was drafted he initially blows off my question until I repeat myself and then somehow get him to laugh. Once we get the ball rolling he is the same Ronny that we all see bouncing around on the bench. He says he cannot not play that way and that if he is out there and we see him being quiet or not cheering then we know something is wrong with him. After I say the energy is appreciated by Laker fans everywhere he seems happy and then goes back to whatever he was doing.

Mutoni and I meet up with Ryan and Robin two absolutely awesome guys that I had met the last time I was in town to watch a game and we chat for a bit. I am in a little bit of shock that Kobe Bryant was more accommodating than Ronny Turiaf, but, I am also thrilled so it doesn’t bother me in the least.

Mutoni and I spend some time in the media room and then head upstairs to our seats. We are in the 600’s for the press box section. It doesn’t even matter that we are at the top of the arena because we are sitting with Robin and Ryan and it is a great time.

Starters

Toronto:
Moon
Bosh
Bargnani
Parker
Calderon

LA:
Radmanovic
Odom
Turiaf
Bryant
Fish

1st Q

From the opening tip the lakers look amped. Hard to believe they are the road team who played the night before.

Bosh strikes first for the Raps.

Fish on the other end with the jumper. Lakers had been standing up prior to that shot just has they have been doing in LA for what seems like forever this season. Ryan asks what the deal is, I have no clue.

Calderon dishes to Anthony Parker who drains a three. 5-2 Raps.

Kobe with the layup on the other end. I just have a hard time believing that I am watching this guy play in person for the second time in my life and that not even an hour ago I was one-on-one with him and he was wonderful. Dreams do come true.

Raps look a little helter-skelter. Back-to-back turnovers, with Lakers scoring off of each.

Bargnani takes this time to go crazy, first hitting a long three and then coming in from the baseline and slamming it down. Haven’t seen this much energy or spunk from the kid in awhile. Looking good Andrea, but, don’t you count on spoiling my night.

Lamar and Kobe score the next eight Laker points. Lamar with a layup and dunk, Kobe with a lay-in and beautiful step back J.

Great ball movement for LA results in a wide open lay up for Ronny. 16-12 LA.

Jose with the three-ball. Say what you want Americans. This kid should be on the reserve list.

Lakers continue to find the open man, Kobe to Ronny to Vlad-Rad, another dunk.

Jose with the jumper. As an aside he has he highest fg% of all pg’s in the league, shooting 52.5% from the floor, 44.4% from three and 91.6% from the line. Couple that with his 8.7 assists to only 1.6 turnovers per game and Ocho is effective any way you slice it.

Moon with a ridiculous alley oop to Bargnani who continues to stay the aggressor. 20-19 LA. 3:40 left in the first.

Sasha/Farmar in for LA. Delfino in for the Raps.

Ronny with the block on Bosh. Nesterovic and Kapono are in for TO. Jose with the J.

Kobe with the ridiculous dunk in Nesterovic’s grill. Mr. Bryant is looking good tonight. Going from Kwame to Gasol in a few short hours will do that to you. Way to boost the morale on a road trip!

Jose right back on the ther end with another jumper.

Farmar goes hard to the basket and gets the reverse to go and the first quarter comes to a close as Ronny blocks Bosh for the second time in the opening 12 minutes.

26-23 LA.

2ND Q

The Laker bench looks ridiculously depleted. Luke is dressed but will not play unless absolutely necessary. We’ve got our starters and then Farmar, Sasha, Mbenga and Coby Karl. Wow.

I think about adding Gasol, Bynum and Ariza to this mix.

Farmar opens the scoring with a three.

Raptors with back-to-back turnovers and then back-to-back scores from Nesterovic.

Mbenga layup and a Kobe J. 33-27 LA.

Bargnani with a three, Sasha with one right back. I comment that there is not another active player who gets fouled on three’s so much. Sasha with the steal on Juan Dixon and the layup on the break. Sasha at the line for….three shots. He drew the foul on Jason Kapono. He wasn’t kidding about wanting to contribute more than just in the fourth.

Bosh is looking really active under the basket and is fouled by Ronny. Makes one, misses one.

KOBEEE! Ridiculous dunk over Parker. Before I have time to calm it down over that, he is back again with a one-hander over Delfino that is vintage Kobe. If this keeps up Marcel is going to have marks on his arm from me hitting him with excitement.

Bosh with a dunk to cut the lead to 46-40. 3:27 left in the half.

Kobe is grounded once again and drains the jumper.

Fouls on both teams with Bosh and Parker each at the line. They each make both. Lead is cut to 47-46 LA.

Kobe with the J, goes glass. Fouled by Parker. Too easy. Hits the free throw.

Bosh with the basket, Fish hits a fadeaway, Jose pulls up for two and Sasha swishes a three courtesy of Kobe to close out the half.

56-51 LA

Bargnani has 17 for the Raps but Kobe has 21 for LA on 10-13 shooting.

3RD Q

I spend half of the quarter on the other side of the arena sitting with my friend and filling her in on my pregame. Finally make it back to our seats and it is 74-66 Lakers.

While I didn’t get notes on the first half of the third, there was another crazy Kobe dunk in there that needs to be mentioned.

Fish hits a three, Calderon scores on back-to-back possessions for TO.

Lakers miss on their next five possessions which Calderon hits a three and then assists on a Delfino three. Raps pull to within four points on a Calderon layup.

Lamar picks up his fourth personal foul on a charging violation and he is sent to the bench.

Turiaf with the dumb foul and he has three.

Kobe is on the bench and Sasha immediately goes over to sit beside him and run things by him. Kobe is patiently explaining things to him and it is nice to see the stuff they don’t show on tv.

21 seconds left in the quarter, crowd is booing, Kobe has the ball at the top of the key, drives in, momentarily loses the handle, somehow gets it back, goes to the corner, he barely has an inch to breathe let alone shoot, it doesn’t matter. Turns, rises, fades and swish, long three, nothing but net.

Jose with a turnover and Kobe almost does it again from 28’ at the buzzer.

83-77 LA.

4TH Q

Kapono with a jumper. Kobe returns the favor on the other end, but gets the foul call as well and makes the free throw.

Kapono with a jumper again. This time Farmar responds with the three.

Ditto Kapono. Kid is heating up. Sasha with the J.

One more time, now a lay up for Kapono. Kobe with another beautiful dunk. How sweet it is.

Timeout Toronto.

I don’t want this game to ever end. LA is up 93-85

Farmar with a three out of the time out. I’m going to miss watching Jay Critt develop but I love our UCLA boy.

Moon with a layup. Quiet, quiet game from Jamario tonight.

Odom with his 5th foul, Ronny comes in for him. Ronny and Mbenga on the court at the same time. Interesting.

Moon hits both free throws, Kobe throws in another three, he’s got 42 and LA is up 10.

Raps go cold, missing five straight, Lakers continue to roll, Sasha with another three, Ronny with a layup, Vlad-Rad with one too. LA 106-91

Bargnani hits a three to end the drought and both teams trade misses.

4:03 left in the game and Kobe drives in for yet another dunk. I haven’t ever seen him with this many dunks in a regular season game.

Bargnani hits two free throws, Sasha hits the J.

Kobe Miss, Bargnani miss, Bosh dunk, but it is too late. Under three minutes to play and LA is up 14.

Farmar with the J and then the foul on Bosh.

Bosh misses the first makes the second and the Raptors give up a layup to Lamar and then turn the ball over as Kobe gets an easy layup in transition from Lamar.

Parker misses a jumper and Sasha scores AGAIN. Lamar racks up another assist.

30 seconds in the game and Coby Karl gets some burn. KOBE leaves the game and Sasha (of course), hits a three to put the Lakers up 20 and close out the scoring.

LA wins 121-101.

Post Game

In the rush to get to the locker room, I barely have a chance to let it sink in that I just saw one of the greatest Kobe performances in person. Six dunks, 46 points, 19-28 field goals, greatness. Most importantly, a 20-point win in front of my very eyes. Sasha with 22 points, Lamar two assists shy of a triple-double. LA with 29 assists to only 5 turnovers. Vlad and Ronny each with 5 assists.

Waiting in the hallway, it dawns on me that I haven’t even ventured over to the Raptors locker room and I won’t be doing it now. Probably not the best way to behave as a journalist, but this is my first Laker game behind-the-scenes, so that’s just the way it goes.

When the locker room opens for media, Marcel and I enter the mayhem of reporters and media waiting for guys to get out of the shower. I talk with Greg Dole who I had randomly emailed last week after reading his piece on Leandro Barbosa only to find that he was my friend’s agent and I had been hearing about him for the past six months without making the connection. Also, that he is working with SLAM. Small world. It is here that one of my most favorite moments of the night happens.

We are standing in the middle of the Los Angeles Lakers locker room. Guys are coming in and out of the shower area and are in various stages of undress. It feels surreal, it is surreal to be standing there with my team. Greg and I start talking about university basketball while we wait and the topic turns to the league my school plays in. We talk about players, teams, this point guard who IS Jason Terry 2.0 and I notice some of the guys looking over wondering what the hell we are talking about. While the rest of the reporters are clamoring around Kobe’s empty locker, I am living my dream basketball life while discussing my lived basketball existence with Sasha, Vlad-Rad and Lamar only inches away from me. Definitely a memory I will never forget.

Observations from the locker room:

Vlad-Rad being a funny guy, asking about walking to the restaurant when he doesn’t even know where they are eating. Rambis just shakes his head and walks away.

Odom rocking a nice, bold green vest.

Fisher having the most jacked calves I have ever seen. I knew he was solid, but holy crap!

Sasha taking his time primping that wild child hair of his, gel, slicking it back, patting it in place.

Mbenga has one of the craziest bodies that I have seen, which is pretty misleading. Not being a girl here just saying the guy is beyond ripped. Just another reminder that it takes more than a big guy who is in good shape to play the game. He is sporting some shoes that are pretty cool. Black with white, yellow and pink on them.

Coby Karl is quietly getting changed, just seems so happy to be here.

I get some time in with Jordan and it is great. He gets dressed in brown dress pants and a dark blue jacket (somehow, it works on him), and we talk about his tattoo’s, family and playing at UCLA and now with LA. He’s so cool he is down for a little game I was challenged to play with him. He has this tattoo on the inside of his wrist that says Cali’s finest. A group of his boys all got it and he spoke proudly of their individual successes. We got to talk about the rookie-soph game and had some jokes before I let him go.

He was probably my favorite Laker to speak with, other than Kobe. I loved speaking with Derek and it was big for me because I’ve been a fan since he was a rook with KB, but, with Jordan I had the feeling that we could be friends if we were just two people who had gone to the same school. Might sound crazy to you all, but he is my age, loves ball and was just a cool, cool guy. Happy to be living out his dream in front of family and friends, he was more than charming.

There is so much going on in the locker room. I can’t imagine living this life every single night, especially on the road. The NBA is a different world, that is for sure.

Talking to Greg, I somehow miss Phil’s press conference but, it’s all good because the man himself sort of brushed past me in the entrance to the locker room and said “excuse me” as he looked me directly in the eyes. Want to talk about surreal, this is Phil freaking Jackson. You’ve coached MJ and now Kobe. You have helped to shape and mold greatness. That was big. Huge. Unreal. The hip problems are really horrible to see up close. Anyone making fun of Phil for sitting in that padded chair can shut up now.

The shower door opens and with a buzz of energy Kobe walks out. Fully dressed in a dark suit, patterned gingham shirt with an equally classy patterned tie, he walks slowly to his locker room leaving a trail of delicious cologne in his wake. The throng of reporters press play on their recorders and the questions start. Again, I am on the outside of this shuffle.

The last time he had that many dunks he had the fro’.

Had good energy, came out strong.

Have to take care of their bodies and rest up

Big road trip.

Trade shows a commitment from Dr. Buss, Mitch and management.

I somehow weasel my way in through the crowd and I am now front row and center. Kobe is asked again about the trade and gives the same response. He is clearly thrilled to have Pau on board. The last question is asked and the media start to back away. I don’t want the night to end because who knows when I will be here again, this close to my dream. Kobe looks way down at me before going any further, busts out that smile, and nods. Inside I just know that he gets it without my having to say a word. Maybe it is the SLAM affiliation, maybe it was the energy I was giving off but, he knew I’ve been a lifer and I could tell he appreciated it.

I turn to Marcel and ask him to tell me that the exchange between Kobe and I really happened and that I didn’t totally lose my mind and make it up. He assures me that it did because, who else could Kobe be looking down at. Haha true. The guys make their way out of the locker room and onto the bus for some food and seven more games on the road. Marcel and I make our way to the media room to tie up some lose ends and step out into the crisp Toronto night. As the cool wind hit my face I was jarred back to reality and it has never felt sweeter.

This night was a dream. This entire experience has been a dream. I never knew being an intern could be so damn amazing. I have never felt this fulfilled, joyous and ecstatic about anything in my life. There were moments that happened in that Air Canada Center that I will remember for the rest of my life and those moments will be what drives me when this journalism thing gets tough. I came face to face with my marker for success and it has left me needing more.

With one smile, one dimple and one wink, I felt validated. Validated as a fan, supporter and writer. This was my most favorite player, one of my heroes. With those two minutes of his time I did not see his world as a fan, friend or an acquaintance, I became a member of it. That is huge and was something that I never knew would happen. Kobe Bryant could retire tomorrow and while I would be ridiculously sad, it would be okay because I got to meet my inspiration at his peak while I am just starting to reach for mine. Regardless of whatever happens from here on out, no one can ever take that away from me.

After calling it a night I received news from a friend that none other than Kwame Brown was sitting at the bar of the Duke of York, having a drink (or, quite possibly 10). He was dressed in a huge fur coat with a yellow hat and he asked the bartender to turn the game on. When asked why he wasn’t playing, he said that he had just been traded to Memphis. He was polite but very quiet and stayed to himself. When the game was over he asked if he could just walk back to his hotel and then left by foot.

Say what you want about Kwame, but, this story makes me sad for him. I wish him the best in his career and personal life in Memphis and beyond. As for Critt, I have a feeling we will be hearing his name a lot in the years to come.