You know about the killer instinct at the end of games. The dagger 3-pointers, the lockdown defense, the 10-point outbursts in the last four minutes of a game.
But what I and about two dozen of the Los Angeles media corps witnessed late Tuesday night has to rank up there with any of Bryant’s late game heroics in terms of mental toughness.
Kobe is a late-comer after games. He showers, gets treatment, changes clothes, probably even checks his e-mail before coming out to meet the press corps after games. But when he does show up he’s generally patient and engaging, so it’s worth sticking around to hear what he’s got to say.
Tonight’s session started around 11:10, and there was a whole throng of us. Probably 30 deep all around his locker. About two minutes into the session, a foul smell wafts through the room. It was bad, but not so bad you couldn’t take it. Then it got worse. Much worse. I started looking around seeing if anyone else was noticing it. Nothing. Everyone was focused on Kobe. And Kobe was focused and engaged in the interview.
Then I looked at the people around me to see if anyone had a guilty look on their face. Still nothing. I couldn’t believe no one else was smelling this. It was foul. Whoever it was either stepped in something terrible, or ate something terrible, but it was so bad you actually had to worry about whoever it was.
Vic the Brick was standing right next to me and with no one else noticing, or acting like they did it –least of all Kobe who was holding court like nothing weird was going on — I kinda had to suspect VTB or his poncho. No offense to the man, I actually find him entertaining, but he wears that Laker poncho everywhere.
This went on for a good five minutes. The smell getting worse by the minute. When finally, Kobe jumps in and says, “What the hell is that smell?”
Thank God! And Oh My God! How in the heck did he do that whole interview with that smell? Talk about mental toughness.
Afterwards, the exonerated VTB said what we were all thinking, “That just shows the iron will of the Black Mamba. He was a warrior in there.”’