Hindsight is 2010

Our writers discuss their most memorable stories of 2010. (Click on the headlines to revisit the stories.)

Vulnerable Kobe: An appreciation

By Brian Kamenetzky, June 18

The Los Angeles Lakers' Game 7 of the NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics was billed in many circles as the most important of Kobe Bryant's career. Rarely do these games meet expectations in terms of the teams on the floor or the individual players.

Game 7 met both, in unexpected ways. Kobe was a train wreck through three quarters. He was failing and couldn't stop it -- at least not in ways to which we're accustomed. With his shot and handle betraying him, Kobe hit the glass and defended with everything he had. The Staples crowd chanted "MVP!" not in adoration, but encouragement. Bryant summoned incredible amounts of mental energy to complete what is normally the most natural of acts -- critical late-game free throws.

After, with another Finals MVP in hand, Bryant admitted the moment nearly consumed him. The harder he tried, the more it seemed to slip away. To see him so vulnerable on the floor and so candid after was stunning and humanizing and rare for Kobe.

Had he dominated Game 7, it would have been a remarkable and triumphant event, one celebrated by fans and media. But it wouldn't have been half as fascinating as the way it played out.

Brian Kamenetzky is co-author of the Land O'Lakers blog on ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Dodgers reward John Lindsey

By Ramona Shelburne, Sept. 6

There is a reason 33-year-old John Lindsey had to borrow James Loney's cleats to wear in his first big league game with the Los Angeles Dodgers. I can tell you that reason now. Lindsey had asked me not to reveal it then, because he was embarrassed at his moment of weakness.

After 16 years of waiting, he'd finally allowed himself to expect a call-up to the major leagues was coming. He'd led all of minor league baseball with a .353 average and had 25 home runs. But Aug. 31 came and went, then Sept. 1 and 2. On Sept. 3, he was supposed to board a plane to Austin, Texas, for the last trip of the year.

Everyone was told to bring both sets of cleats in case they were called to L.A. For the first time in 16 years, Lindsey stopped believing. Reality was staring him in the face. In a silent protest, he left his other set of cleats in his locker in Albuquerque.

It felt good and awful. But by the end of the next day, everything had changed. Lindsey got his call. Not just into manager Tim Wallach's office, but a personal call from general manager Ned Colletti, who seemed almost as thrilled to be delivering the news as Lindsey was to hear it.

Lindsey got only 13 at-bats before a broken hand ended his season. He recorded one hit. But after 16 years of believing in a dream most would've let go by then, it was enough.

Ramona Shelburne is a columnist and writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow her on Twitter.

Nothing reserved about Lakers' Powell

By Dave McMenamin, April 28

It started out as a Kobe Bryant story. Our managing editor, Eric Neel, talked to me about trying to immerse myself in one aspect of the game every once in a while. So one day I decided to concentrate on Bryant's pregame routine.

The most fascinating part of it turned out to be the hug he shared with Lakers reserve Josh Powell right before he took the court. I did some digging and found out about the depth of the relationship between Bryant, the star, and Powell, the reserve. I could relate to Powell's passion for basketball and his desire to improve -- I was a bench guy in high school, a manager and sometime practice player in college before I played a semester overseas.

Powell signed with Atlanta this offseason. He told me he occasionally watches the Lakers, but he relishes being back in his home state and playing a bigger role on the court than he did in L.A. He is averaging 6.0 points in 14.8 minutes per game this year while shooting better than 50 percent from the field.

This offseason, Lakers head coach Phil Jackson wrote the captions for a photography book by Andy Bernstein. When Jackson saw the rough draft, he requested another Powell shot be included. I think that says it all.

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Russell Westbrook: The honor guard

By Arash Markazi, April 30

Before the Oklahoma City Thunder played the Lakers in the first round of the NBA playoffs, I asked Thunder guard and former UCLA Bruins standout Russell Westbrook if there was a story behind the rubber bracelets he slipped onto his wrists before he played: an orange one with "KB3" written in blue and a blue one with "Why not?" written in orange.

The wristbands told the tale of his friendship with Khelcey Barrs, who wore No. 3 while the two played at Leuzinger High in Lawndale, Calif. Barrs collapsed and died because of an enlarged heart while the two were playing pick-up basketball. Afterward, Westbrook doubled his efforts on the court as if he were playing for two people, and doubled his chores off the court. He began taking the trash out for Barrs' grandmother, who lived across the street, every week as Khelcey had done. Westbrook remains close to the Barrs family and reminds them he is playing for KB3 every time he steps onto the court.

Westbrook began to live by the motto "Why not?" after Barrs died. It's his response to anyone who doubts him. Westbrook had plenty of doubters when he entered the league as the fourth-overall pick in the 2008 draft after only two years at UCLA, but he has improved with every season. This season, after winning the gold medal at the FIBA World Championship, he has blossomed into one of the best point guards in the league, averaging 23.2 points, 8.5 assists and 5.1 rebounds.

Arash Markazi is a columnist and writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Career-defining win for Rick Neuheisel?

By Peter Yoon, Sept. 26

While the UCLA Bruins' 2010 football season can only be deemed a disappointment, there was actually a time the Bruins had hope for big things. The peak of that period came in Week 4 when the Bruins visited the Texas Longhorns, then ranked No. 7 and with a run defense that led the nation.

UCLA proceeded to pull off an improbable victory, dominating the game with 264 yards rushing in a 34-12 victory that stunned the nation.

The rebuilding Bruins went on the road and controlled a game against a national power. The Bruins seemed to be on the right track with the newly installed Pistol offense and had what appeared to be coach Rick Neuheisel's signature victory with UCLA.

The victory lost some luster as the season wore on. The Longhorns finished 5-7 and the Bruins finished 4-8. Both are in the midst of coaching staff changes. But the aura of hope surrounding the UCLA program after that game -- the sense of satisfaction and joy on the face of every player and coach -- made it a standout moment.

Peter Yoon covers UCLA for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Hiroki Kuroda transcends language barrier

By Andrew Kamenetzky, July 28

Last summer, it hit me how little seemed to be known about Hiroki Kuroda as a person. I covered him as a rookie and have since spent time around the Dodgers, but my insight was limited to his persona on the mound (inscrutable face, reserved nature), plus postgame comments relayed through a translator. Kuroda cut the cloth of an unknowable figure. Evident respect notwithstanding, I assumed teammates felt the same way.

I assumed wrong.

To a man, Kuroda's brothers in blue feel they know him. Maybe not details about his childhood, favorite music or how he takes his coffee, but rather his essence, his character, even his strong sense of humor, which belies a reserved front and whatever might get lost in translation.

As a writer and radio host, I often obsess too much over the right word or phrasing to express myself. This piece reminded me how words, while important, aren't mandatory for communication. If there is a willingness to simply try, the rest can fall into place.

Andy Kamenetzky is co-author of the Land O'Lakers blog on ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.

USC wants Dillon Baxter reinstated

By Pedro Moura, Nov. 22

You knew something was up when the USC Trojans new compliance head walked over to Lane Kiffin on the practice field for a chat during a key practice. You really knew something was up when freshman tailback Dillon Baxter entered practice 90 minutes late and walked off shortly after.

The crisscross between the two storylines and the ensuing national impact couldn't have been more surprising -- or interesting.

On Thursday, Nov. 18, Baxter, who was feeling ill, asked for and received a golf-cart ride onto USC's campus from friend/student/NFLPA-registered agent Teague Egan.

A school compliance official spotted Baxter on the golf cart and alerted the athletic department, which had, we later learned, previously warned Egan to stay away from its student-athletes.

Nationally, the story became a magnet. Some fans were impressed that USC caught on so quickly. Some thought the school purposely made a big deal out of ruling Baxter ineligible to make itself look good. The most common reaction, though, was more apocalyptic: Is this what college football has come to?

Pedro Moura is co-author of the USC blog on ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Jered Weaver: Defining moments

By Mark Saxon, April 8

When the assignment came, it felt like a little jab in the neck. That's how enthusiastic I was. The one-year anniversary of the death of young pitcher Nick Adenhart was fast approaching and our editors felt we had to have a story.

I was rung out and the Los Angeles Angels players were, too. Adenhart's death had hung like a cold, wet blanket on their 2009 season and, by the early days of 2010, they were ready to move on. I'd been covering the sad event since about 7:45 a.m. on the morning he died. I'd written columns, updates and a long end-of-season retrospective.

Eleven months later, what else was there to say?

That's when Eric Neel, who runs ESPNLA.com, dropped an idea while we were sitting in a conference room at the office. Why not write about Adenhart through Jered Weaver? We could explore the ways in which Weaver absorbed the loss of a burgeoning friendship and grew from it, how it accelerated his growth to the cusp of stardom.

Suddenly, the story felt urgent. It resonated with the cycle of life and death. By the time I sat down to write it, it just came pouring out. You could say it's about two pitchers, but it's really about much more.

Mark Saxon covers the Angels for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Dodgers' Colletti can relax -- a little

By Tony Jackson, April 27

As beat reporters, we tend to think of ourselves as sprinters rather than distance runners. But when I took on the challenge of writing a feature piece on Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti -- a man I had covered on an almost daily basis for more than four years -- it most definitely was a foray into distance running.

As Colletti and I talked during interviews in his office at the Dodgers' spring-training complex, there was only one subject that was off-limits: his wife and two adult children, whose privacy he fiercely protects. Otherwise he was an open book, discussing his upbringing in a working-class Chicago neighborhood, his adoration for his late father and, yes, the free-agent signings over the years that seemed to blow up in his face (see Andruw Jones, Jason Schmidt and Juan Pierre).

After those conversations with him and many more with those who had worked closely with him during almost three decades in baseball, it took about two weeks just to do the writing. But in the end, I felt it told much of the story of a man people didn't really know beyond the player moves and the sound bites.

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.

UCLA's Cole at a loss for words

By Blair Angulo, June 29

It was all Gerrit Cole had envisioned when he passed on the New York Yankees out of high school: Rosenblatt Stadium, electric crowds, a shot at a national championship. The right-hander was tagged with a loss and the Bruins fell two wins short of their first baseball title, but he was a major reason UCLA made its first trip to the College World Series in 13 years.

The 2010 season was a successful one, with sixth-year head coach John Savage guiding the Bruins to a program-record 51 wins. With Cole -- a former first-round MLB draft selection who is eligible again this upcoming June -- leading a talented group of returnees, UCLA is an early favorite to go back to Omaha in 2011.

Blair Angulo is co-author of the UCLA blog on ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Fandom reaches a different level

By Scott French, April 28

There's a perception that Los Angeles is "Chivatown" -- that the most popular soccer team in the Southland, with a following rivaling that of the Dodgers, Lakers or Raiders, is Club Deportivo Guadalajara, the original Chivas.

With that as my starting point, I sought out a group of hard-core Americanistas, supporters of Club America, the primary rival to Chivas, with a fan base in SoCal every bit as impressive as Guadalajara's. I found L.A. Monumental 16, a group of about 400 passionate fans of the Mexico City giant and spent an evening with them watching the "Super Clasico" showdown with Chivas. They spent the entire game singing, chanting, jumping up and down, beating on drums and blowing horns, doing everything they could to make their presence felt 1,300 miles away.

Behind the fandom was a culture that exists in clubs throughout Mexico in which rival "crews" occasionally fight, steal each other's scarves, shirts, jerseys and banners (displaying the booty online), and sometimes threaten greater harm. It's not what the leaders of "Monu" desire.

"We're not a club that promotes violence, that causes problems, that tries to damage stadiums," said one. "We're a fan club; we have families with children."

Scott French is author of the Football Futbol Soccer blog on ESPNLA.com.