The night Andrew Bynum became a Rock Star
It's hard to believe, but a big-time Lakers win over Miami- complete with a Kobe/Shaq hug out, a near triple-double by LO, a few D-Wade thunder dunks (Give the dude credit,folks... He can play) and #8's typical late minute "money ball"- managed to get completely upstaged. Entirely. By a lightning in a bottle kinda thing. Lotta stuff went down that night, but there's one moment that will remain with me for quite some time. With approximately three minutes left in the first half, I watched Andrew Bynum officially lose the title of "rookie" and take on a brand new label:
His three first half minutes head to head with Shaq electrified Staples in a way I haven't witnessed in person since the first PJ era. It felt like a concert. You'd have thought Bono was playing center, the way that kid had the crowd on their feet and in the palm of his hand. To watch him battle the Big Fella was absolutely awesome. Everything about it, from start to finish. Even the part when Shaq severely posterized him, which I was terrified would leave Bynum with a broken neck. He looked somewhere between helpless and dead. It was like watching the roof collapse on a wheelchair bound puppy. But the kid got up, brushed himself off, sprinted down court, and on the very next possession, faked the Diesel on a spin move for a buoyant dunk. Bouncing like a Super Ball and stoked outta his skull, he even gave Shaq a little elbow action on the very next possession, which was met with a forearm shiver that would have intimidated many an Ultimate Fighter. And just for good measure, their little scuffle gets broken up by Kobe Bryant, the man who spent his first eight seasons feuding with Shaq! Are you kidding me?! You could bring together a team of Oscar winning writers and still not come up with that script.
That, my friends, is a full three minutes!
It reminded me of that scene in Goodfellas, when the young Henry Hill gets pinched selling black market smokes, but gets through his trial without saying a word or giving up any of Paulie's crew. As he leaves the court house with Jimmy Conway (who just slipped him a roll of Hundys), all the wiseguys are outside, whooping it up, and Paulie yells out "You broke your cherry!" That's what the night felt like with Bynum. You couldn't have squeezed a bigger gut check into three minutes, and he passed with flying colors. I'm not saying he's the second coming of Shaq in his prime. I'm not even declaring him a future All-Star yet. The kid's still raw, got a lot to learn, and would currently get crushed by Shaq if they battled 30-40 minutes. Sorry, but it's true. And that's no biggie. As a teenager, Henry Hill wasn't quite ready to organize the Lufthansa heist, either. But during those three minutes, Bynum displayed charisma, energy and major, major balls. And everyone in the audience is now dying to see an encore.
What else do you need from a rock star?