True story. So I run into Kobe Bryant on the court at Staples Center more than two hours before Tuesday night's Laker game and remind him he's just a horrible three-point shooter and my daughter could kick his butt.
I don't rub it in that he really stinks -- hitting only eight of his last 31 three-point shots -- because I know that's why he's out here practicing all by himself. But I ask him if he would like my daughter, who hit nearly 350 threes in her high school career and set some California records in long-range shooting, to work with him.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday January 09, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 9 inches; 348 words Type of Material: Correction
T.J. Simers -- British author Thomas Carlyle's surname was misspelled as Carlisle in Sports on Wednesday.
I guess the guy is a little competitive, because right away he starts trash talking and challenges her to shoot against him for money.
"Let's do it for charity," he says, "the loser donating money to the winner's charity of choice," and I laugh. I've seen him shoot threes, and of course I've got a favorite charity: "Underprivileged Grocery Store Baggers."
And so I talk to Lakers' PR ace John Black and we agree we'll set up a time and place for the Great Three-Point Shootout, and we'll invite The Times and any other interested party to put money on Kobe or the kid for the benefit of charity, and then privately I tell Kobe I'll make sure the kid backs off if she starts to embarrass him.
Well, I don't think much more about it, because he starts the game and misses a three-pointer. I'm just happy he has drawn iron, and I go underneath Staples Center to the Chick Hearn media room and start writing about my visit with Don King earlier in the day and don't pay any attention to the game.
Then the noise begins to build, and I'm not watching the Lakers because I know they'll probably lose, when I hear something about someone making a three-pointer, and then another, and another and I'm thinking Tracy Murray must have finally gotten into the game.
Then I get word it's Bryant, who has hit nine three-pointers in a row, and then 11 of 13 before going on to hit a 12th -- the most three-pointers ever recorded in one NBA game. "I just wanted to shut you up for a little bit," Bryant said.
Like any of this is really going to impress my daughter. He missed six shots.
YES, I did spend some time with King, and let me tell you, I thought my wife talked a lot. In fact, I've been to dinner with the wife and Tom Lasorda, and both the waiter and I have spent the entire night waiting for our turn to speak. I know Oprah has tried everything, but she might want to go out to dinner with the wife and Lasorda -- it's a great way to start a diet.
Obviously, I've had some experience playing the role of Trappist Monk in my own house. (When you've been married for 30 years, sometimes you feel like you're living in a monastery, but then I digress because I don't really get the chance to ramble much anymore and it feels pretty good ... )
I tried calling Lasorda Tuesday night to ask him who might get the last word if locked in a conversation with King, and Lasorda's telephone was busy.
I didn't call the wife because I was fearful she might answer the phone.
I don't recall asking King the question, but he answered anyway, calling himself a great friend of Lasorda's and then began quoting Thomas Carlisle and Al Campanis before I excused myself to get a drink of water. When I returned he was still answering the question I had never asked about Lasorda, and he was now quoting Shakespeare -- the first time I have ever heard Shakespeare and Lasorda mentioned in the same sentence.
I asked King if he ever found himself quoting something memorable Jim Tracy might have said, and that shut him up.
NOW MY first thought when I saw King standing in the Biltmore Hotel was the guy was up to no good once again. As you know, he's an ex-con, and it was pretty obvious to me he must have rolled some figure skater because he was wearing this hideous red, white and blue sequined frock.
"Do you own skates?" I asked, and I think he misunderstood because he went off on this rant about "sweat and blood and tears" and anyone who thinks he just skates through life doesn't "know what Don King is all about."
"It's blasminee," he yelped, and I said, "did you mean to say, 'Bimini,' you know, Gary Hart, the boat 'Monkey Business' and that whole Donna Rice fiasco?" and he looked at me as if he had no idea what I was talking about. Now he knows what it feels like to listen to him talk.
I SPENT time at the Biltmore with King at a news conference to promote a March 1 Las Vegas bout between John Ruiz and Roy Jones, and then again at The Times, when he met with some of the sports department executives. I think I'm accurate in saying I didn't understand a thing he had to say.
Our boxing writer, Steve Springer, explained this might be an interesting fight featuring a shrimp in Jones beefing up to take on a bruiser in Ruiz, and I guess over the years he has learned how to translate what King has to say.
I know at one point I heard King mention the 300 Spartans, Superman, Samson and his nice head of hair and Delilah in the same context, but then he pointed to a button on his hideous sequined frock featuring "America's First Family," which included President George Bush, his wife and Bush's wild kids, and I can't be sure if he was suggesting the wild kids had something to do with Samson and Delilah's falling out or not, but he was pretty worked up about it.
"I didn't come here to save the righteous, I came here to save the sinners," he said, and that's when he left to meet with Sports Editor Bill Dwyre and other Times' executives.
T.J. Simers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org