InsideHoops.com Exclusive -- Kobe Bryant in Amateur Audio Recording on Street: "Dr. Buss is an idiot"
You've all certainly heard about the amateur Kobe Bryant video where, speaking to fans outside a shopping area, he badmouths management, complaining how they didn't want to trade Andrew Bynum to get Jason Kidd. It's pretty short, just around 24 seconds long, though the Kobe Video Guys say the full conversation was actually a good 15 minutes.
Not reported quite as loudly is that the same Kobe Video Guys, who recorded that video via digital camera in late May, ran into Kobe again in early June and had another brutally honest talk with him, this time only for about 10 or 11 seconds. And they managed to record the audio of it (no video), using a cellphone.
As of June 24, 2007 only about two media members have seen the full Kobe Bryant video. But as for the other clip, the Kobe Video Guys told me that only one member member has heard the audio, and that he only was played about half. The exact quotes of the rest of it remained a mystery.
This afternoon, a beautiful Sunday in New York City, one of the Kobe Video Guys, on a business trip in Washington DC, flew here to NYC, specifically to meet me and make me the only media member in the world to hear the complete audio encounter. I was at a New York Liberty game, doing pregame interviews, but keeping my cellphone on vibrate, awaiting the call from one of their group who was flying to LaGuardia Airport and then meeting up with me in midtown Manhattan.
The call came about 15 minutes after I finished interviewing a few talented WNBA players. I headed up to the press room, packed up my stuff and headed outside, calling The Kobe Video Guy (one of a group of three, not including a friend of theirs who acts as a PR rep), who told me the exact Starbucks he was in. I described myself -- a 6'3" white dude, wearing jeans and an open brown, multi-colored shirt, wearing a big backpack which contained my laptop, digital camera, and some other equipment, prepared for anything, though basically expecting to walk in, given stuff to listen to and hear, talk a bit, and walk out without ever opening my bag.
I enter the Starbucks, and we immediately spot each other. I didn't know what he looked like in advance, but he was near the entrance in a corner, watching everyone who entered, and I was clearly looking for someone, so it took maybe two seconds for us to greet each other, sit down, and over the course of the next hour go from being cautious to establishing trust and talking just as much off the record as on. Mostly off, actually. Young, polished, professional dude. Friendly, normal, cool guy and clearly a passionate basketball fan.
Eventually we both joke about how this feels like a spy mission. But for the Kobe Video Guys, it kind of is just that. The way they see it, they have something that's of interest to tens of millions of fans around the world, and they're trying to make the most of it, but carefully revealing bits of it to key people, planning to eventually show it to the world at the precise moment.
As for what I saw:
First, the initial encounter between Kobe and the guys: I can verify that it is Kobe Bryant in the video. Unless they found his long-lost identical twin brother who has every characteristic of Kobe, and can imitate his voice to perfection, it's him. I'd bet my house on it.
As for the short audio clip, the full extent of which is about to be revealed exclusively on InsideHoops.com, it's just audio, and it isn't the clearest thing in the world, but I heard it well enough, and it certainly does sound like Kobe. It's one thing to see video and see Kobe speaking and hearing what he says. It's another to hear an audio clip, recognize that it certainly sounds like Kobe, and trust that it is.
So far, the Kobe Video Guys have told the truth about what matters. They really did talk to Kobe. They say this second audio clip is also Kobe. It sounds like him. So, I believe it. I'd bet your house on it. And some inexpensive items from my house. Again, I can't guarantee it's really him on the audio clip. But I can guarantee it sounds like him, and the guys who brought it to me have proven, via video, that they've ran into Kobe in the past and he was more than happy to talk openly to them.
And, now, InsideHoops.com, breaking this news to the world, presents the entire, short transcript of the audio clip:
Fan: Please tell us your staying!
Fan: Please tell us your staying.
Kobe: Get a Bulls uniform, fellas.
Fan: Are you serious?
Fan: It's not worth it Kobe, you got to stay.
Kobe: Dr. Buss is an idiot.
Fan: That's true, good luck man.
Kobe: Alright, thanks man.
Fan: See ya buddy.
That's it. Short and to the point. And while the "Get a Bulls uniform, fellas" quote has been out for days now, InsideHoops.com is the only media outlet delivering the other key quote, which, again, assuming that this guy that sounds exactly like Kobe Bryant is in fact Kobe Bryant, is: "Dr. Buss is an idiot."
I watched the video clip about 15-20 times, and listened to the audio clip around 25-30 times.
There you have it. And minutes later, The Kobe Video Guy that I met and I were outside, and he was hailing a cab to return to LaGuardia airport, flying back to Washington DC tonight. No time to tour Manhattan. It was a beautiful day to do it. Such is the life of a professional with a temporary side job selling quick yet pretty fascinating highlights of a world famous sports superstar.
The Kobe Video Guys are selling pre-orders to see the video and hear that second audio encounter on their website, TheKobeVideo.com, for $1.99. I'm told they plan on releasing it to everyone who purchased access to it this coming week, perhaps Draft Day (June 28), give or take a day.
Almost all reports that have come out over the last week suggest that the Lakers don't want to trade Bryant and will look to give him more help.
Dr. Buss, meanwhile, has been a terrific owner over the years and has always managed to keep at least one top superstar in a Laker uniform. Though, lately the team obviously hasn't provided Kobe the help he needs. I have no idea why Mitch Kupchak added so many fringe players to the roster these last few years.
And Bryant, an InsideHoops.com favorite (I did a great 20 minute phone interview with Kobe when he was a rookie, for an Australian basketball magazine called "Jammin") and one of the most awesome weapons in basketball, is a life-long Laker fan who helped Shaquille O'Neal and company bring several titles to Tinseltown. Does he force tough shots sometimes? Of course. The dude definitely hogs the rock sometimes. But Jordan did, too. And the vast majority of the time Kobe was with Shaq and had quality teammates he passed the ball to the right people at the right times. Shaq got his stats. Titles were won. The team functioned on a championship level.
The Laker franchise will be fine whether Kobe stays or goes. But chances are Bryant stays.
If Kobe ever does get traded there are plenty of other stars who would love to take his place as the leader of a legendary organization. And if Kobe stays, the team, even with Lamar Odom as the only other star, is good enough to at least keep making the playoffs. Though they definitely need upgrades at every spot around those two players.
Jeff Lenchiner is the national editor of InsideHoops.com, a frequent guest on major radio stations around the country, and a regular contributor to HOOP (the official magazine of the NBA). Lenchiner also wrote the All-Star player profiles in the official 2007 NBA All-Star weekend event program. He was called "a virtual one-man basketball team" by Sports Illustrated (Dec. 25, 2000), and Newsweek in March 2005 recommended InsideHoops.com for Jeff's "clever analysis." Lenchiner has been reporting on the NBA since the mid 1990's. His information and analysis is quoted regularly by media outlets around the globe.