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|| News Item: Posted 2003-11-03

The Start to a Bumpy Season
By Dan MacMedan

Photo by Dan MacMedan for USA TODAY

Photo by Dan MacMedan for USA TODAY

Kobe Bryant answers questions about the upcoming season. Avoiding questions about the hearing, Bryant was swarmed by the press nevertheless during Media Day at the Los Angeles Lakers training facility.
Where's Bette Davis when you need her? If you get to/have to cover the Lakers this season, that famous line "Fasten your seat belt, it's going to be a bumpy night" seems more appropriate than ever (but substitute night for season).

From the first inklings of marital impropriety by the anointed "good guy" of the NBA, all the way to the current salvo's between Kobe and Shaq, the media has been gift wrapped a reality TV series that are making Hollywood screenwriters tune into Sportscenter just to get ideas. It's "Playmakers" meets "Celebrity Justice".

The first real indication of the hype may have come back in early October when Kobe had to attend a preliminary hearing in Colorado for his sexual assault case, and then came back the next day to attend Laker's "Media Day" at their training facility in El Segundo.

What is usually a cluster of NBA reporters and a few photographers turned into a circus with extra security and crowd barricades had to be set up outside to keep the johhny-come-lately TV stations and the tabloid photographers at bay.

Eventually those regular season credentialed press were let in, which wasn't really a given during "Media Day"...that designation is a misnomer. Media Day, does NOT mean a day where the players are at the disposal to the press for interviews and photos for the upcoming season. Heavens no!!

Media day is the day where the team tapes all their promos for TV and radio, and Andrew Bernstein shoots their team picture. You know ..."Hi, this is Karl Malone, you're watching the Lakers on TNT" … that sort of thing.

Photo by Dan MacMedan for USA TODAY

Photo by Dan MacMedan for USA TODAY

Kobe Bryant gets his team photograph taken by Lakers team photographer Andrew Bernstein during Media Day at the Los Angeles Lakers training facility.
Both USA TODAY and The Sporting News, as well as I'm sure other publications requested the opportunity to shoot Kobe and Shaq with Karl Malone and Gary Payton. With resound these requests were promptly dismissed.

So, with a tone of somebody who admittedly had only gotten a couple of hours of sleep that past couple of nights, PR director John Black made it clear that the press was only there to "observe" and if the players wanted to do an interview, it was at their discretion.

One by one the team exited the locker room, only to be swarmed by reporters, cameramen, photographers. All the while, none of us every really thought Kobe would actually show up to the feeding frenzy, but at the very end, and to his credit, Kobe appeared.

With a statement that he wanted to only speak about the upcoming season, reporters tried to shift their attention, but all the while testing the waters on questions about the accusations. One reporter, while observing the media hoard, asked him why did he bother to show up today and Kobe's response "Because this is my job" seemed far too reasonable and sane an answer to foreshadow what is going to be a season that is anything but.

If you want to read more about that day. USA Today's David Leon Moore did a great job of describing the feeling that will set the tone for the season at Laker Camp: .

(Dan MacMedan is a contract photographer with USA TODAY and freelances in Southern California. This is his first article for the Sports Shooter Newsletter.)

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