Trying to solve the mystery of Kobe Bryant's fall
Call this the new version of the Zapruder film because each frame of Kobe Bryant's fall shortly before halftime of the Lakers' eventual 109-100 Game 1 loss Sunday to the New Orleans Hornets suggests different conclusions.
After New Orleans shut off the baseline and nearly forced him into a double team, Bryant faded back and nailed a 16-footer before falling to the ground. It sparked some anxiety among those at Staples Center, while Chris Paul nailed an open three-pointer and Ron Artest hit a near half court shot at the buzzer. That's because Bryant lay motionless on the floor after saying he hurt his neck. The various angles provide different interpretations.
I sat on the press tables behind the basket across from New Orleans' bench, but it appeared Bryant landed on the knee of Tim Leiweke, the chief executive of AEG. The replays shown on ABC suggested the same thing, and analyst Jeff Van Gundy voiced that conclusion: "He slid into the back of that guy's knee."
Leiweke insisted otherwise, telling the Daily News' Jill Painter that Bryant hit the empty courtside chair next to him. That brings up the question of why on earth there would be an open courtside seat at a Lakers playoff game. OK, so it was also the fans who didn't show up for the Lakers' playoff opener.
"I'm not sure if that was his knee," Bryant said of Leiweke. "Was that his knee? It felt like it was a metal object. It wasn't his knee."
Naturally, The Times' T.J. Simers argued Leiweke had an ulterior motive. "From my vantage point," Simers wrote, "it appeared Leiweke kneed Bryant in the neck, obviously trying to take him out and shift the spotlight to the Kings, who they tell me are in the playoffs too." When Simers told Bryant his conclusion, he couldn't help but laugh.
"I'm not touching that one," said Bryant, though Laker fans will likely be more willing. Everything turned out well for Bryant, who finished with 36 points on 14-of-26 shooting and scored 12 third-quarter points despite sitting out at warmups at halftime. But this mystery remains unsolved even with the help of instant replay.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant grimaces after hitting the back of his head on an empty courtside chair late in the second quarter Sunday afternoon at Staples Center. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times