The sun had reached its peak on this beautiful Sunday afternoon and a refreshing breeze whisked through streets filled with bronzed Angelinos prepared to consume and copulate. However, despite the clear skies and canceled practice – Coach Jackson was tending to an urgent matter with his ’spiritual advisor’ – the forecast still called for rain inside the Lakers facilities. Kobe Bryant awoke in a foul mood and as he is oft to do in such an irritable state, the superstar decided to channel his frustrations in the gym. An attempt to lighten his spirits by frolicking with his two princesses through their palace was unsuccessful, so after kissing Gianna and Natalia ciao bella, the Tickle Man revved his Ferrari’s engine and headed south towards El Segundo. His wife reminded him to pick up some diamonds from the market on his way home.
Following some light lifting, Bryant headed downstairs and watched the lights flicker on above the empty court. He intently pounded the ball into the hardwood and never took his eyes off the rim as he worked his way through an assortment of shooting drills. Pull up jumpers, pivots into fadeaways over both shoulders and impossibly deep three pointers were all highlights of a one-man symphony, the leathers percussion consistently complemented by a harmonious string section. Boom, boom, boom, Swish. Boom, boom, boom, Swish. Suddenly, his rhythm was interrupted by the squeaking sneakers of an uninvited guest. Kobe paid it no mind-fully engrossed in conducting his latest composition-until his melody was brought to a screeching halt.
“Watch out!” the voice cried from under the opposing basket. Midair, arms fully extended in textbook form, Bryant found himself helplessly craning his neck to heed the anonymous warning, but it was too late. “Ball!” Instead of landing safely on the court, his heels came to rest on another basketball just as his launch found its target. His arms flailed wildly trying to regain balance, only to result in the most inharmonious series of sounds. Swish, squeak, gasp, Thud. Taking just the briefest pause to absorb the pain of his skull slapping the floor, he leapt to his feet with blood lust only to be disarmed by his assailants beauty.
Candace Parker innocently batted her eyelashes at him and his rage subsided. “Sorry, damn ball just got away from me.” They’d exchanged pleasantries on a few other occasions but never engaged in any substantive conversation. He massaged his scalp as she searched for the right words. “It must be hard” she said. He looked at her quizzically, and she smirked before elaborating. “Striving to achieve a perfection that everyone else wants to define or contain. They only let you off the leash when it’s time to pick up their slack and should you fail, you have to be ready to take the blame. Not them.” “Depends on who you ask” he shrugged. “Well it certainly looks that way to me.” she said confidently.
Before he knew it, they were sitting at half court sharing their philosophies on the game, each nodding in assent to the others theories. They chatted for hours. Occasionally, he’d tilt his head and squint at her in utter amazement as she unearthed truths he hadn’t realized himself. “…and that’s how I’m able to maintain my confidence without sacrificing my relationships with others.” she explained. In a rare moment of discomfort, he broke eye contact and began to scratch his branded right arm. His jaw clenched tightly and he quickly rose to his feet, reminded of his unattended errand. “I have to go. Tiffany closes at 9. But I’ll see you around.” She gazed at him knowingly, maintaining her dribble. “It’s cool. You know where to find me.” Her jumper made a familiar sound as the metallic door shut behind him. Boom, boom, boom, Swish.