Playing the video game
Underground Kobe film ain't all it's cracked up to be
Posted: Tuesday June 19, 2007 11:31PM; Updated: Tuesday June 19, 2007 11:31PM
I had to see it for myself. For no other reason than curiosity's sake and, to be honest, an all-too-tempting meeting location near Diddy Riese, the legendary cookie store in Westwood, Calif.
I'm here to see the infamous "Kobe Video," which has taken the world by storm it seems. The 24-second video clip was shot in late May, a few days before Kobe Bryant went public with his trade demands on national radio. It catches Bryant criticizing Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak for not pulling off a mid-season trade that would have sent Andrew Bynum to the New Jersey Nets for Jason Kidd.
"It's been crazy," says Ron, who introduces himself as a representative of "The Kobe Video Guys," a couple of college-aged guys who talk to Bryant in the video but wish to remain anonymous in fear of the backlash they might get from Lakers fans. "Everyone wants to see it."
I meet Ron, who appears to be just out of college himself, wearing a backpack and nervously looking around, inside of a nearby bookstore. "Let's go upstairs," he says, being followed by two well-built dudes who he jokingly (I think) calls his bodyguards. "I don't want anyone else watching."
He then pulls out a laptop from his backpack and places the computer in front of me and hands over a set of headphones. "Are you ready?" he asks after I put the headphones on. "Here it is."
The video, which was taken on a digital camera by a friend who was taking pictures of Bryant talking to the two inquisitive fans, begins with Bryant, standing in front of the Newport Coast Shopping Center and wearing a red shirt and sunglasses. He is talking about the trade that the Lakers reportedly turned down last season that would have brought Kidd to the Lakers for Bynum.
"Andrew Bynum? What the f---?" Bryant says in disgust. "Are you kidding me? Andrew Bynum? F---ing ship his ass out. Are you kidding me? We're talking about Jason Kidd. But they didn't even want to do that. Now we're here in this f---ed up position."
The tandem then asked Bryant what he thought about Bynum's potential. Bryant smiled and started to shake his head as if he was about to go on another tirade.
"You know what man? Let me tell you something. Mitch Kupchak had the nerve to ask me..."
At this point the 24-second video clip ends abruptly and we are left to wonder what Bryant says next. "The Kobe Video Guys" say that Bryant went on to say, "How good do you think Andrew Bynum is going to be in 10 years? Are you f---ing kidding me? I'm trying to win this s--- now."
A week later the duo again ran into Bryant in Newport Beach, after he had made his trade demands public, and pulled out a cell phone and recorded one of them telling Bryant, "Please tell us you're staying." Bryant responded by saying, "Get a Bulls uniform fellas."
As I walked out of the bookstore after watching and listening to the combined 30 seconds of footage, I had the same response most probably had after watching Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton and their far more tantalizing forays into voyeurism.
"The Kobe Video Guys" claim they chatted up Bryant for about 15 minutes and he talked about his desire to play with Ron Artest and how he could keep him in check if he were in Los Angeles. He also hoped the Lakers could make a deal for Jermaine O'Neal in the off-season, which made it seem like he wanted to remain with the Lakers at the time, but we are only left to imagine what that must have sounded like as he stood in the parking lot in front of the Sharky's Mexican Grill.
While the "Kobe Video Guys" say they feel the public has a right to see the video, only time will tell when and if that will actually happen. After unsuccessfully peddling the clip to different media organizations, including ESPN and Basketball News, the group set up a website, thekobevideo.com, where they plan on showing it for a $1.99 fee. As is usually the case with these fly-by-night endeavors, however, there is a catch.
They claim to have turned down a private party's offer of $100,000 to buy the rights to the video so that it can be destroyed. They say the private party is not connected with Bryant or the Lakers (although they did unsuccessfully contact the team to gauge their interest) but is just a big fan with deep pockets who doesn't want to see Bryant's image with the Lakers tarnished. It seems a little late in the game for that, but never-the-less, the group claims they turned down the sure-fire money and decided to set up the web site in the hopes of recouping the six-figure offer the hard way by making it public.
In a perfect example of wanting to have their cake and eating it too, they will not show the video to their customers until they reach the designated threshold of 50,000 orders to recoup the $100,000 private party offer they turned down. If the threshold is not met, they say they will refund all their orders and sell it to the private party, who sounds just dumb enough to buy it again despite the contents of the footage already being public.
Who knows if Bryant will be traded or if anyone outside of this "private party" will be able to buy the appropriately-timed video clip? The only thing that was certain to me as I braved the rush-hour traffic on the 405 freeway back home was that the famous $1.25 ice cream cookie sandwiches from Diddy Riese were still the best value in town, "Kobe Video" included.