Gerald Green, Kobe Bryant and me

Now that the Lakers have signed Gerald Green it's worth remembering the last time Kobe Bryant and Green were on a team together.

I was on that team, too.

It wasn't a basketball team. It was a Habitat for Humanity work crew, in New Orleans East, on the NBA's first annual NBA Day of Service, on a rainy day not long after Hurricane Katrina in February 2008. And it ended with a very happy young woman moving into her new home -- and a broken hammer. From a 2008 post:

Once I got a rhythm going, I was humming along. Didn't bend nails, didn't miss and hit my finger. Didn't split the wood. It was all good.

But then, towards the end of our short time on the job, I put a nail closer to a knot than I probably should have. It was a little bit of a cocky move. I pounded it pretty hard too, before the nail started to buckle. These were big framing nails, too wide to power through this knot. It was my first nailing error of the day. I turned the hammer around and started to yank it out.

Then here comes Gerald Green. "Need some help with that?" He said it with just the slightest suggestion that maybe this was a job for a professional.

I had found that the nail wasn't budging at all, and was only too happy to stand back and let Green crank on it -- especially as 2 x 4 it was pounded into wasn't affixed to anything, so good leverage was hard to come by.

The man they call G. Green yanked and pulled and grunted for some time. Eventually, the Habitat guy in charge of the project came over and saw that Green's bad nail was the holdup.

"Want me to get that?"

Green was only too happy to join me on the sidelines. Kobe Bryant came over to watch, too, as had several TV cameras and photographers. The pro was about to go to work.

He had technique, and power. He used kind of a repeated jackrabbit type yank yank yank but the thing was not moving. "Man," he exclaimed to Gerald, "what'd you do to get that thing in there?"

Decision time. Gerald was getting credited with this work -- was it good work (hard hammering!) or bad work (dumb spot!)? I didn't know. I leaned towards good. And decided not to steal Gerald's thunder, especially when I knew those TV cameras had already had enough of me.

Yank yank yank the guy just kept tearing at it. He cranked and cranked on it, and wondered how the hell G. Green got that nail in there like that.

Then: the whole hammer busted right in half, straight through the handle, just below the head. Nail: still in place. Hammer: done.

I was proud I had been the one that got that nail in there like that. But I let Gerald soak in that pride. My pride. Like Gerald broke the hammer.

I handed the Habitat guy my hammer, which had a metal, instead of a wooden handle. He finished pulling out the nail in silence as the rain fell.

And then Kobe said to Green, of me: Whoa, man. That's cold. He didn't say a word.

Kobe couldn't believe I didn't 'fess up to the tough nail. G. Green got into the act too, ribbing me about that, playing mock victim.

Finally, I say it's cool: I'll take credit for it. But the Habitat guy is gone. And so are the TV cameras. It's too late. The world thinks that Gerald did that.