Even the shrieks from the crowds of young women in spandex were not enough to satisfy Ed Lover, the rap fixture who was emcee for the evening. Before he would bring the main attraction on stage, Lover demanded more noise. "That's all right," he said of the first volley of screams, "if I was gonna introduce one of the f- - -ing Clippers!"
More hollering, and then suddenly Bryant, in a black jumpsuit better suited for a termite inspection than a sweaty night performing as part of a rap and soul revue, stepped triumphantly out. It was downhill from there.
Though Bryant stalked the stage gamely, risking rotator cuff injury with a repeated stabbing motion of his right hand, the thunderous, muddy hip-hop beats blasting from the sound system pretty much obliterated his diffidently deployed skills. "I was schooled to never look back..." rapped the 21-year-old. "I grabbed the mike and started rapping." Those were the only discernible lyrics of Bryant's set.
At the end of the night—as one female fan sprayed those around her with a bottle of champagne, locker room style—two dozen performers and hangers-on crowded onstage with Kobe. Seated on a drum riser and half-hidden by a gyrating kid trio called Da Babies, the hoop star had the sheepish grin of an accountant wondering if he had just gone overboard at the karaoke bar.