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Behind the Broadcast: Documentary puts Bryant in new light

Saturday, May 16, 2009
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When I received the Spike Lee documentary DVD on Kobe Bryant from ESPN, I wondered, what am I going to learn about Bryant that I already didn’t know?

My view of Bryant was that he was all about himself. He wanted the ball. He wouldn’t pass it to his teammates. He didn’t along with Shaquille O’Neal, even though they won three NBA titles together. He didn’t along with coach Phil Jackson.

So, I was ready to dismiss the documentary.

I’m glad I didn’t. “Kobe Doin’ Work,” filmed April 13, 2008, when the Lakers faced the San Antonio Spurs, gives us an insight on Bryant that the average fan doesn’t see on TV, or even if they are at the arena watching the game.

Lee, who is known for his passion for basketball almost as much as his filmmaking, had unprecedented access to Bryant. And he didn’t waste a moment. Well, except there was too much of loudmouth Steven A. Smith, who is credited as being an ESPN basketball analyst at the time the documentary was being made. But shortly after the documentary was filmed, ESPN decided not to renew his contract. A grateful nation got its hearing back.

But back to the documentary. Bryant turns the ball over the first minute of the game against San Antonio. He seems a little nervous, not because the game is on national television, but that he is being filmed for the documentary. It was a little unusual to see him that nervous.

However, as the game goes on, he becomes more comfortable. We watch him interacting with his teammates and the Spurs. What fascinated me is all of the talking that goes on during the game. Yes, you can hear some of it on TV when the announcers aren’t talking, but it’s the depth of the conversations that is fascinating. Running plays, talking strategy, where to move without the ball and playing defense, you get to hear it all.

And we get to see a side of Bryant that you may not see during timeouts. At one point in the second quarter, while the Lakers coaching staff is off to the side diagramming a play during a timeout, Bryant is sitting with his teammates, diag­ramming a play. He’s not doing it in a demanding way, he is doing it like a coach.

“This is funny watching because I didn’t realize I talk so damn much,” Bryant said.

Bryant’s running commentary makes the video. He sounds like he is enjoying himself while watching the game. Early in the film, Bryant said he was ready to drop 61 points on Spike Lee’s favorite team, the New York Knicks.

“Kobe Doin’ Work” is worth watching. The 85-minute doc­umentary will air tonight at 8 on ESPN and ESPN HD.

LA GRECA BACK

Don La Greca made a temporary return to “NHL Live” on Thursday for 75 minutes on Sirius XM Radio and NHL Network.

As you may recall, La Greca recently had to give up hosting the show because of what he said was “a scheduling conflict.” La Greca’s primary job is working on “The Michael Kay Show” on 1050 ESPN Radio in New York. The show’s start time was recently moved to 2 p.m.

PREAKNESS STAKES

NBC televises the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown, today at 4:30 p.m. WNYT (Ch. 13) and WNYT HD will have the broadcast.

Surprise Kentucky Derby winner Mind That Bird isn’t being given a chance by NBC handicapper Mike Battaglia.

“He freaked and ran a huge race at Churchill [Downs], but he is going to have to prove to me that he can string two great races together,” Battaglia said. “With the threat of rain in Baltimore, that might help him, since he won on a sloppy track in Churchill, but he’s going to have to prove it to me.”

Battaglia likes filly Rachel Alexandra to win.

“Rachel Alexandra got a good draw, and being outside will help her because she’s never really been in the position of having horses on both sides of her,” Battaglia said. “The only speed horse that can go with her is Big Drama on the rail. She will get a good trip from the outside, and that really helps her chances.”

WTMM-FM (104.5) will have radio coverage of the Preakness, starting at 5 p.m.

PARTING SHOTS

The NBA conference semi­finals wind up Sunday with two Game 7s. ABC (WTEN Ch. 10 and WTEN HD) will have the Western Conference matchup between the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers at 3:30 p.m. TNT and TNT HD will have the Orlando Magic-Boston Celtics Eastern Conference game at 8 p.m. . . .

Game 1 of the NHL’s Stanley Cup Western Conference final between the Chicago Blackhawks and Det­roit Red Wings will be on NBC at 3 p.m. Sunday. The opener of the Eastern Conference final between the Carolina Hurricanes and Pittsburgh Penguins will start at 7:30 p.m. Monday on Versus and Versus HD. . . .

The New York Mets games today and Sunday against the San Francisco Giants get the national treatment. Fox Sports (WXXA Ch. 23 and WXXA HD) has today’s game at 4 p.m., and ESPN and ESPN HD has the Sunday night contest at 8.

 
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