Tags Posts tagged with "Staples Center"

Staples Center

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Kobe Bean Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
Kobe Bean Bryant professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers of the NBA. He entered the NBA directly from high school. Photo: Shutterstock
Earlier this week, I went back to downtown Los Angeles and the Staples Center for the first time since I began coaching. We played our NBDL game on Tuesday night and ended up winning at the buzzer on a shot by Dontell Jefferson. After our game, I went and visited Phil and Kobe in the Lakers locker room a few doors down in the tunnel as they played the same night against the Hornets right after our game. It was great to see Phil Jackson again. It was the first time I talked to Phil since I began coaching and he gave me some really good advice for coaching and explained how as a coach you absolutely have to be mentally keyed up and ready all the time. Frank Hamblen was in the coaches office as well and I had seen Brian Shaw and Jim Cleamons earlier. The only one who was missing was Kurt Rambis and I know that he’s wearing a nice winter coat up in Minneapolis right now!

It was great to see Kobe again. On that Tuesday night, I happened to be wearing one of the suits that he gave me for Christmas in 2002. (Phil always did a Christmas gift exchange within all of the players and coaches). It was funny that year because I had drawn Kobe’s name and he drew mine. I gave he and Vanessa a box of chocolates and book (101 Famous Poems), and he gave me two Italian tailored suits. I guess I probably still owe him a better Christmas gift one of these years!

When I finally caught up with Derek Fisher, (my only other remaining teammate from my time w/ the Lakers), he was already in the chapel session with the Lakers Chaplain and so I wasn’t able to go in there to disturb him to say hello. But I did see one of his close friends Durand and told him to pass along my best. It’s funny the way things work out. On that Tuesday of last week I was running around back there trying to catch up with people and then last night (Friday night), I was watching the Lakers vs. Heat game on ESPN. First it was Derek’s three pointer with a few seconds left, and then it was Kobe’s one legged, three pointer over Dwayne Wade’s hand with time expiring to win the game.

I’ve hit one game winner in my entire basketball life and that was back in High School against Monte Vista High. Earlier that year, our power forward, a great shooter named Ryan Luther, had hit a game winner against the same team. I remember those days well, and to think that players like Kobe and LeBron can hit game winners each season against some of the best athletes in the world is incredible.

Coaching in the NBDL is going great so far. It’s a dream come true to be working with great young players and to try to help them take their game to the next level whether that means the NBA or some other professional league overseas. Right now I’m in Bakersfield, California and we have a game later tonight. A couple nights ago, our head coach Brad Jones and I had dinner at Macaroni Grill in Bakersfield. I accidentally left my credit card there and when I picked it up today, the manager said, “I found your card and tried to find a way to contact you! I went to your blog but you hadn’t posted for a while….so I figured you would realize it at some point and come back to grab it.” Thank you Macaroni Grill, Bakersfield!!

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Home game against the Denver Nuggets, but it was a thriller and quick trip to Utah to see my parents and some siblings.

I’m not sure how many of your watched our recent home game against the Denver Nuggets, but it was a thriller. Sometimes I wish the fans could have a microphone implanted in our huddle, so that you can hear the emotion and involvement from all of the players. At a point very late in the game, when things looked the bleakest, newcomer, Justin Reed entered the huddle, and starting clapping and called out, “Keep believing that we can win this game!” I think Justin’s comments gave our team new life, because Trenton Hassell, Kevin Garnett and Ricky Davis all made huge plays in the ensuing seconds. Ricky came back to the huddle after his huge steal and jump shot and called out for everyone to hear, “All we have to do is believe!” In the end, we didn’t get the outcome we wanted, but I was proud of everyone on the team because of how hard we fought.

One of the things I like about Ricky is how hard he plays. I’m sure that you’ve noticed that he wears an undershirt when he is on the court. What you don’t know, is that Ricky is really wearing an assortment of pads on his hips and his back for protection. It’s almost like football pads, but just a lightweight version. He likes to fight through screens and drive the lane with so much momentum, that bigger players are constantly hitting him. Plus when you play above the rim like he does, it’s nice to have some protection for the occasional crash landing. Basketball players have hips that get beat up all the time. It seems like there’s always at least one player on the team with a bruised hip, a hip pointer, or some kind of bursitis.

I made the most of my All-Star break by making a quick trip to Utah to see my parents and some siblings. Then I flew out to Washington D.C., early (our team had a game against the Wizards the Tuesday after the break and we had the option to meet up there) to see my sister and her husband and five kids. It was a lot fun to see my twin nieces. They gave me a gift of some drawings with words that said, “I love my Mad Dog,” with a pink dog surrounded by pink flowers. I think I was supposed to be the pink dog. My sister and brother-in-law came to the game against the Wizards with some longtime friends. After the game, they all loved it when KG came by and took the time to shoot the breeze with them a little bit, even though we had just suffered a tough loss.

The day before the Washington game, I met up with some friends and we saw a lot of the museums in the area. One of my buddies out there has the last name of “Nader” and he is a distant relative of Ralph Nader. We had a good time talking about a few years back when I was with the Lakers and we beat Sacramento in a playoff series. Ralph Nader publicly stated that he wanted an independent commission to look into the officiating of Game 6 of that series which was played at the Staples Center. I guess that meant Ralph was a Kings fan. Phil Jackson, of course, felt differently about the officiating (as did our team and the rest of Los Angeles). It was fun to reminisce about those two personalities, and how for a couple of days, they exchanged friendly/pointed quotes with each other through the media about the issue. The sporting world is a lot of fun and I’m really grateful that I get to be part of it.

Have a great week.

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Lakers, Scramento, Staples Center, Los Angeles, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Special Assistant Coach, NBA
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a retired American professional basketball player who played 20 seasons in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers.

Currently we’re on a four-game road trip and we just beat Sacramento, after defeating my old team the Lakers on Friday night. When we pulled up to Staples Center in Los Angeles, the team bus was directed down into “The Tunnel”, which is another word for the ultra-private, underground parking garage. Yes, in keeping with L.A. tradition, it is glorified valet parking. Before our bus descended the ramp leading under the arena, we saw Kareem Abdul-Jabbar approaching the security checkpoint. He is a special assistant coach with the Lakers, who was brought aboard by Phil Jackson to tutor a young seven-footer the Lakers have in Andrew Bynum. Despite winning several championships with Los Angeles and being the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, Kareem got to the checkpoint and the guard gave him what seemed like the typical full airport security check. The guy even wanded Kareem. I guess it’s good that they take security seriously there. To me, getting the wand out for Kareem in that city, would be akin to patting down Michael Jordan in Chicago. Everyone on the bus looked on in amazement and it sparked a number of stories and everyone just marveling at the career he had.

When I played for the Lakers, 90% of our games were at 7:30 p.m. Coach Jackson wanted us there by 6:00 p.m. for those games. When we got stuck in traffic and arrived late (hey, it is Los Angeles traffic), we would always sneak through a back tunnel and try to act very casual when we got in the locker room. One time before a game during warm-ups, I saw Jack Nicholson in his usual seat. I waived at him and said “Hi Jack” and then he waived back and said, “What’s up Mark”. It’s kind of weird to greet someone that you have not talked to very much. I knew him from the movies, and he knew me because he never misses a game. That was about the extent of our conversations when I played out there.

Then there was Tiger Woods. I missed him by one year at Stanford, so when I saw him sitting right next to our bench for a game against Houston, I was not going to miss my chance to meet him. Shaquille O’Neal was hurt and our other big guys were in foul trouble that game, so Robert Horry and I played a lot of minutes. In the third quarter, we went on a run and the Rockets had to call a timeout. I figured that was my only chance to talk to Tiger, so on my way to the bench I got fired up and said, “Let’s go Tiger!” and we bumped fists the way everyone does now. I was happy Phil didn’t see it, but my teammate Brian Shaw did. Brian came over smiling and said, “Don’t think I didn’t just see you sneak Tiger a high five.”

We just landed in Salt Lake City and it’s 12:30 Monday morning. We play the Jazz later…today! By the time we get to our rooms and fall asleep it might be 1:30 or 2:00 a.m. When we get to the hotel, our trainer will stand up and say something like, “Breakfast meeting tomorrow at 11 a.m. in the Oaktree Room on the third floor.” It’s pretty common in the NBA that when you play two games in two nights on the road, the shoot-around at the arena is cancelled for the second game and replaced with the breakfast meeting. Most guys will go to the arena early to get some extra shots up before the game to combat missing the morning session. When Kevin McHale was the coach last year he held the breakfast meetings sometimes, but would always add with a smile, “I’ve never seen a guy improve his game standing at the omelet bar.”

Have a great week.

Thanks,

Mark

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Shaquille O'Neal, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers, Toyota Previa, Staples Center, Chevy Tahoe, Beverly Hills, Beverly Center, Rolax Store, California, Minnesota
In 2000, as a rookie on the Los Angeles Lakers, Shaq told me he wanted me to be at his contract extension press conference. Afterwards he said to me, "Are you ready to go shopping?" I was a little shocked, because I really didn't know what was going on.

After playing against Shaquille O’Neal and the Miami Heat last week, a lot of old memories came to mind and I’ll share a few. Back in 2000, as a rookie on the Los Angeles Lakers, Shaq told me he wanted me to be at his contract extension press conference. Afterwards he said to me, “Are you ready to go shopping?” I was a little shocked, because I really didn’t know what was going on. When I arrived in L.A. a few months earlier, I came with the car that my parents gave me as a college graduation gift. The car was an old Toyota Previa and it even sported a nice little dent in the side that one of my older siblings left. One thing Shaq told me right at the start of training camp was, “You can’t be driving into the Staples Center in that thing.”

I went shopping with him and it was a pretty fun day. First he took me to a car dealership and marched right in to the CEO (whom he knew) and told him to give me a great deal on a Chevy Tahoe (that was the car I had mentioned I thought was nice). Then he offered to put a down payment down for me to lease the car. After that he drove us up to Beverly Hills and we went to a Big and Tall clothing store. I found a pair of jeans that fit and Shaq said to the store worker, “He’ll take eight of each color!” I said, “All I need is one of each color.” When Shaq kept piling on Italian sweaters, I told him I didn’t need all the stuff, but he told me it was a welcome gift and to relax while he paid the $2,500 bill.

Then we went to the Beverly Center (a big L.A. mall). First he took me to a trendy store that sold suits. He picked out a nice one and when I asked the store worker how it looked, the worker said it looked “really fly.” That was the first time I had ever heard the word fly in that context before. I took it to mean it looked good. The last stop was the Rolex store in the mall. Right before we walked in, we ran into our teammate J.R. Rider and his friend in the same mall. Shaq told J.R. to pick out a Rolex then he told me to pick one out as well. He then picked out about 20 more. The bill was about $75,000. The next day Shaq came in and gave a Rolex to each teammate, coach and staff member. He told the team thank you and that he wouldn’t be the player he was without their help. I still remember driving around L.A. that day with Shaq, everywhere he drove, people were honking at him and saying hi and stopping alongside to congratulate him.

I still remember when I drove my car out here from California. It was a little scary going from the state where I had lived my entire life and coming to a place where I hardly knew anyone. One of the stops I made along the way was Kearney, Nebraska, where my older sister and her husband and their kids live. The day I left for Minneapolis I woke up early and the thought that came into my mind was something like, “What have I gotten myself into?” After a year and a half of being here in Minneapolis I am so glad I made the decision to come to this awesome state. L.A. was a great three years, but coming to Minnesota has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’ll talk to you next week.

— Mark Madsen