Lakers blog profile: zio69 is almost certain he saw a young Kobe Bryant in Italy
Real name: Andrea Sibaldi. No mugshot, I don't wanna scare people.
Occupation: IT - system/application programmer
Hometown: Pistoia, Italy. Kobe Bryant's dad used to play for the local ball team. I think I even spotted Joe "Jellybean" Bryant, a young Kobe and his sister one day ... you know, this is a very small town!
Story behind your screen name: Long story.... It's strictly connected with my family name and my (failed) DJ career.
How I became a Lakers fan: When I was 12 or so, and still hoped to become a basketball player, during a practice session a teammate caught a pass with just one hand, which prompted to coach to yell, "Don't do like the Americans! Catch passes with two hands or you're out!" So after the session I ask my coach where he got the notion that American players did that. He showed me a TV station that broadcast NBA games. I started watching the marvelous "Americans" and fell in love with a young guy who ran up and down the court, always smiling, throwing passes or doing other wonderful stuff ... his jersey was at times yellow, at times purple, and his jersey number was 32.
Favorite Lakers memory of all time and of the 2009-10 season: Game 7, the comeback! Although I had no doubt we would win and I wasn't expecting the Lakers to steamroll the green guys, the way the game unfolded was completely unexpected. And in the end, it was even better than winning by 40 points. We gave them the illusion they could win, but Ron Artest strangled them towards the end. Maybe I should also mention that it was late night (or early morning, if you wish) in my time zone, so I couldn't scream my anguish and then my joy. I rode around for three days with a Lakers' pennant on my car after that. I wanted everyone to know WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS!
Most heartbreaking Lakers experience: Learning that Magic Johnson was HIV positive and had to stop playing. I was still a very young man at that time and had not yet experienced many personal tragedies. It was a working day just like any other and when I got home my mom told me. I was disappointed because I didn't expect Magic would cheat on his wife. (I knew about James Worthy's sting, but I still didn't expect Magic to do the same.) And I was also very sad, close to tears, because my hero was going to die. Luckily he proved stronger than HIV and I'm glad he's still around. I love to watch him during half-time shows on TV.
Favorite Lakers player: I can't name just one, I have three favorite players:
a) Derek Fisher: I admire his effort, his dedication and his passion. He's not flashy, but he does all the small things right. And I've come to admire him even more after reading his book. I don't know if the Lakers will retire his number, but I'll never forget about him
b) Ron Artest: Because he's the X-factor, one never knows what he's going to do. Also I like his directness and his tremendous D. And how he came out in Game 7 of the finals!!
c) Lamar Odom: Although he rarely plays at the level he can, I love how he's always smiling. Be honest, how can one dislike the Candy Man?
Greatest all-time Laker: Magic Johnson! One may argue if Michael Jordan was better than Magic, but the Showtime was a much better sight to behold, in my opinion. Magic was always running up and down the court, inspiring plays, making plays and (like Lamar) always smiling! His basketball was a symphony! I remember very fondly his last All-Star game, where he engaged in a mid-court shot contest against the East guys. Too bad he's no longer in politics, he would have been a great president!
Last time you went to a game at Staples Center and at the Forum: First and only time I've been at Staples: Last March for the game against the Timberwolves. It was one of the best days of my life. It's a real shame I was badly jet-lagged that day and how the game unfolded wasn't great either: the guys played for real only the first 10 minutes. Then Drew injured his knee again. Sure, we won, but it wasn't how I imagined. But I loved the atmosphere at Staples, so I guess I'll have to be back. (Note to self: next time pick a game against some real team!)
Opposing team, player you dislike the most: We hate Boston. Period. They've been our arch-enemy for ages. What more can I say? I love when we beat them. By one, by 20, doesn't matter. And it tastes wonderful when we beat them in the Finals.! As for players, of course, Kevin Garnett. He's a great player, no question about that. He almost threw us out of the Finals in 2004 by himself. But since he moved to Boston, well, he no longer looks like a nice guy! He plays dirtier than he used to (maybe also because he's getting older), and in the 2008 finals, in Boston, he was always on the giant screens doing that awful scream..... Sure there have been a lot of guys in green to dislike, but they're all retired now.
Interactions with Lakers players: None, unfortunately. As I said earlier, I think I saw Kobe some 24 or 25 years ago. When I was at Staples Center I tried to yell a couple of things in Italian at Sasha, while he was doing some work with D-Fish and Jordan Farmar, but he didn't hear (there was a Laker girl speaking at the mike).
Most cherished piece of Lakers memorabilia I have: Magic's No. 32 home jersey. About 20 years ago a colleague traveled to L.A. and, as I had begged him to bring back a Lakers jersey, he bought an original No. 32. I guess I've worn it just once. If I have a chance to come back to L.A. next year I guess I'll wear it when going to Staples Center.
Memorable stories about being a Lakers fan: Well, I don't know if it's memorable ... but when I went to L.A. last spring I often wore a Lakers T-shirt or cap. And it was wonderful to see people all around the place yelling at me saying "Let's go, Lakers" or asking where I got a particular T-shirt -- it was even better than being home! And it was nice when I went to pick up the tickets at the booth: there were some people from Korea, a guy from Central America. Well, Dr. Buss, you certainly succeeded in making people think of the Lakers when thinking about L.A. But let me tell you one thing: you Los Angelenos are lucky folks: You've got a wonderful city, great climate, good wine, good-looking girls ... and the Lakers! It's not paradise, but it's surely a nice package!
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Kobe Bryant, sitting on the bench during the Lakers' preseason opener against the Minnesota Timberwolves in London on Oct. 4. Credit: Clive Rose / Getty Images
Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant runs the length of the court to join his teammates for a celebration after defeating Paul Pierce and the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals on June 17. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times