Kobe Bryant was so stunned and angered by his one-game suspension, he took the extraordinary step Tuesday of asking NBA commissioner David Stern to convene an immediate appeal hearing.
Shortly before 5 p.m. ET the league turned down that request, meaning Bryant had to sit out the Los Angeles Lakers' game against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night. He wasn't paid for the game.
And it cost the Lakers in a 99-94 loss to the Knicks.
"If you follow this team, we had to play in the beginning of
the year without Kobe," teammate Lamar Odom said. "Of course he's
a great player, but for us to win, to win regularly, we need
Bryant was staying at the Lakers' team hotel just a few blocks from NBA headquarters in Manhattan and was on call to dash down Fifth Avenue to Stern's office if the request was granted. But barring the unlikeliest turn of events, Bryant was officially banned from the Garden for the Lakers' only visit of the season to play the Knicks.
"This is not the process that we use at the NBA," Stu Jackson, the league's chief disciplinarian
for on-court actions, said of Bryant's request. "Certainly, in
theory, given the fact that the Lakers were in New York, we could
have heard an appeal. But again, we never have, as it's not part of
our process. He does have the right to an appeal at a
later date. If he were to win that appeal, he would get his money
"I've been waiting to play here, it's always been a fun place for me to play here, and I'm surprised. Shocked, by it, actually," Bryant said before his appeal was denied. "I unintentionally caught Manu Ginobili. What do you say, it's a basketball game. You unintentionally catch people with
elbows every once in a while."
The suspension, for elbowing Ginobili while Bryant was attempting a jump shot late in the Lakers' game against the Spurs on Sunday, caught Bryant completely off-guard.
"I haven't seen a precedence for this. There's unintentional elbows that take place in a game all the time," Bryant told reporters at Madison Square Garden following the Lakers' shootaround. "I'm blown away by it. It makes no sense."
The NBA news release announcing the suspension said Bryant was being penalized for "striking" Ginobili. Jackson elaborated on Tuesday.
"Some of the determining factors were the fact that there was
contact made with Ginobili above the shoulders and the fact that
this particular action by Kobe was an unnatural basketball motion.
Following a shot, he drove a stiff arm in a backward motion and
struck Ginobili in the head," Jackson said. "We did not view this
as an inadvertent action."
No foul was called on the play.
"This blow was so swift in real time that it's understandable
why, in fact, an official would have missed the contact," Jackson
said. "In our view, this was not an attempt to draw a foul."
Bryant is averaging 28.4 points, 5.5 assists and 5.4 rebounds.
Bryant scored 40 points in his only visit last season to Madison
Square Garden, which he called his favorite place to play.
Sasha Vujacic started in his place to the disappointment of a sellout
crowd that booed when it was announced during pregame introductions
that Bryant was not with the team because of the suspension.
"We have one appearance in Madison Square Garden," Lakers
coach Phil Jackson said earlier Tuesday. "People obviously look
forward to this game because Kobe last year was being chanted
'MVP!' on this court during the course of a game in which he had a
great game. The crowd obviously likes him here and likes to watch
him play. To miss this game cheats the fans."
Last season, Bryant was suspended for two games without pay for
elbowing Mike Miller of the Memphis Grizzlies in the throat -- but
Stu Jackson said that incident was not a factor in Tuesday's
Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN Insider. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.