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The Life

June 12, 2002
The visionary
ESPN The Magazine

A thin black wire dangles from Mike Bibby's ear. He squints at his cards, frowning -- not a great spades hand -- and tries to listen in to his cell phone. It's early evening, after the Kings' Game 1 loss to the Lakers, and C-Webb's on the line. "Where you at right now?" Bibby asks.

But right now, his mind isn't just on tonight's plans. Here, at his brother Dane Flores' house, it can't possibly be. Not with all the little ones weaving in and out of the clusters of adults, and racing in and out of the house. ARCO's got nothing on the noise level here. Bibby can't turn off his court vision just because he's off the court.

Mike Bibby
The newly crowned king of the Kings.
A small swarm of houseflies buzzes in as the screen door to the front yard slams shut. Still sifting through his cards, Bibby raises his head like a periscope. His four-year-old son, Michael, has vanished with the flow of children. "Who's out there with him?" he asks loudly. "They think they're slick, creeping outside." One of his friends strolls over to the door to double check: The kids are fine.

Then Bibby's longtime girlfriend, Darcy Watkins, comes in with their 22-month-old daughter, Janae. "Hi mama!" Bibby yells, his face brightening. He scoops up Janae in one arm, and she slumps against his shoulder as he continues slapping his cards on the table. His mother, Virginia, asks him a question, interrupting the flow of the game. He sighs heavily and shakes his head. The outcome of this round isn't much more heartening. "We lost by 10, mama!" Bibby says to Janae.

One of the chairs at the table is broken. Instead of buying a new seat, they've subbed in an empty cardboard box for the busted leg. "We're the winners," Bibby reasons. "We should get the good chairs." But his partner, Carvel, is kneeling on the carpet next to the card table, as is Tony Thompson. Neither wants to risk tumbling over. No reason to add to the chaos.

"Where'd Tone go?" asks Bibby, craning his neck around suspiciously. "Every time I got my hand up, Tone's sneaking behind me."

His nephew, Dane Jr., and a couple of his buddies dance around to a P. Diddy remix booming from the stereo. Mike's mom watches SportsCenter, cranking up the volume to 40. The entire house reverberates with Kobe's sound bites.

Tired of cards, Bibby challenges his friend Raymond "Raydog" Walcott to an NBA 2K2 game. "My team could be the greatest of all time," claims Bibby. "I've got Bird, Chamberlain, Stockton, Baylor and McHale. Nobody will ever beat me, because I shoot threes. We've won five championships in a row. This is a dynasty. I can't help it if I wheel and deal like that." He grabs the controls, and immediately commences taunting the overmatched Walcott.

"We really don't go out much," Dane says while watching Team Bibio rout Raydog's squad. "We play cards and video games and stay outta trouble. But this crowd here isn't even a drop of water. Not even a smidgen of the full crew."

It's uncanny how Bibby seems to know where they all are. Sound familiar?

Anne Marie Cruz is a senior reporter for ESPN The Magazine. Email her at

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