By now, everyone knows Kobe Bryant swung by Drew League on Tuesday, racked 43 points and canned a game-winning J. That events would shake out in such fashion for Kobe isn't necessarily surprising. The real surprise was Kobe literally on hand. And as hard as it would be to keep a Mamba appearance under wraps, it was even harder just figuring out how to get the busy superstar on the court during a busy lockout.
For the inside dope, I talked Wednesday morning with longtime Drew League Commish Dino Smiley. He shared some interesting nuggets on Bryant contacting the league, the serendipity that created a mutually agreeable time, and the arsenal of moves on display.
Andy Kamenetzky: How did this come about and was this an impromptu game? Your season ended last weekend.
Dino Smiley: We had our championship this past Saturday and prior to that, a couple days before, his representatives called and said he wanted to play Saturday. I wouldn't go for it. I'm like, "This is the championship and these guys have worked hard. We don't want to just put the #1 ringer into the game. We would love to have him there, but it would set back the league, the integrity."
But we talked about it, and I said, "You know what? We haven't set up an All-Star game. Why don't we do an All-Star game on a Sunday night?" He was gonna be leaving out early Monday morning and coming back. Couldn't do it. So finally, Sunday evening, I get a call. "Kobe wants to play the game, but wants to play at two o'clock on a Tuesday." I'm like, "Two o'clock on a Tuesday? We don't play Drew League games during the week."
It was ironic, because the team [playing against Goodman] was going to have practice that day at 6 pm. So I tell him, "The guys are coming down. Let me see if I can get them to come down early. I don't want to put it on Twitter and I don't want to put it out to the media or anything like that, and the guy doesn't show up. You guys gotta give me a 110 percent that he's coming."
And they were like, "No, he's definitely coming. He definitely wants to play. And he only wants to play in the Drew league in that gym. He doesn't want to play anywhere else." And I know it's because of LeBron [James] and [Kevin] Durant. They played and got a buzz. (Laughs) We were like, "Okay, let's try to make it happen."
The game was scheduled for 2 pm, and then there was a call [Monday] morning that there was an NBA Players Union meeting at 1:30, so that threw everything off. So I said, "Okay. Well, this plan isn't gonna happen. I'm glad I didn't put it on Twitter and Facebook and the web." They said, "No, no, no! He wants to play, but he wants to play after that at 4 o'clock. The meeting should be over at 2:30, three o'clock. It shouldn't be that long. We still wanna play. Check with your players." They said they were fine, because some of them were going to the meeting also. So we set it back to four o'clock. We had people coming from everywhere at one o'clock looking for the two o'clock game and we had to push that back.
That's how all that took place and it ended up started around 4:45, 4:30.
Andy Kamenetzky: So Kobe was playing with guys that are going to be competing against the Goodman team?
DS: Right. It was a mixture. The majority of the Goodman team was there. About 90 percent. The only ones that missing were JaVale McGee and Brandon Jennings. The ones that are going, DeMar DeRozan, James Harden, Marcus Banks, Pooh Jeter, Craig Smith. Baron Davis was there. Derek Williams. All those guys were there, along with some of our non-NBA guys.
AK: You didn't want to give the media a heads up, but once people saw Kobe was there, did more and more people start showing up?
DS: It was supposed to have been a surprise, but you couldn't hold that. Once people knew and got keyed that it was Kobe, they started showing up early. Then the Tweeting started. That's when the line went about 75 yards out the door. He had to have a sheriff there to keep crowd control. We always have our park sheriff available, because we knew it was going to be an unusual amount of people.
AK: The way fans stormed the court after Kobe hit that game-winner, does that happen often?
DS: Not like that. We've had guys hit game-winners where their teammates run on the floor and some of their friends may run on the floor. Somebody hits a huge shot to win the game. But that right there was mind boggling. That trumped everything. We've had them get on the floor but nothing like that.
AK: Any thoughts on reversing on your "ringer" stance against Goodman? He's pretty good.
DS: Well, at this point we offered him to go to D.C., and he kind of smiled and shook his head, like "I'm gonna see how the body feels." Everyone was like, "C'mon, Kobe! You need to go to D.C. You've been here [15 years]. You're L.A." So he represents L.A. He's like, "Oh, yeah. This is home. Definitely home."
He likes drama, because we had to put him in a separate locker room and bring him through the back while the other guys were warming up. And the crowd erupted. I can't see him not showing because he's gonna get this much notoriety, which he doesn't really need but just for [the] people.
And this is really his first time playing really competitive basketball against high level players. He wore no knee brace, no knee sleeve. He was quick. His hops was ridiculous. He was just springing all over the floor.
AK: What was his mix of shots like?
DS: He was attacking the rim and the good thing is, you get a person like James Harden, people starting hollering "Oklahoma! Lakers!" When we were in there before he came, I said, "Look, guys. We need to play hard. You know how Drew is. We're not going out here to put on an exhibition. We're going hard. We're going just like we always play. You gotta get up in him because that's what he wants. He wants to be tested today."
You know, James scored 47 himself, so they went at it a few trips down the floor. It was great.
He was good. He was very good. He was fresh. His spring, his jump shot was nice. Getting to the basket. His jab steps and his foot work. Everything was very good.