(An excerpt from a journalistic article of my life on the road with the world championship Los Angeles Lakers in the 1999-2000 season.)
Day 1. Meeting the team. The guys seem cool about having me around. I can already tell that they’ve accepted me into the fold. Shaq in particular seems to have taken quite a liking to me. I can tell that he and I will be good friends when this whole experience is over.
Day 2. The team had its first practice today. During a water break, I told Shaq that I thought he was dragging it a bit on the court and he seemed to take my note to heart. I told him that he looked like “a cow out there” and that if he wanted to make the all-star team he’d better “pick his fat butt up off the court and snap it back on or else he’d be lucky to get a job handing out towels to the other players” He took my criticism in stride and laughed it off. But I told him that I wasn’t kidding and then re-iterated to him about how I thought he looked like a “cow” and then I said “fuck you for not taking me seriously”. Shaq was cool about it and apologized for not taking me seriously. It was a bullshit apology but I accepted it anyway because I didn’t want to get into it with him. He has a way of arguing in circles which really gets on my last nerve.
Day 12. With five games under our belt it looks like this is going to be a great season for the Lakers. Shaq Fu and I have taken to staying up late at a cute little bistro in Beachwood Canynon called La Poubelle and talking about the teams potential in the weeks to come. Shaq has turned me on to red wine and good food. In return I got him the new PJ Harvey cd and Shaq says he listens to it non-stop. Unfortunately, I’m finding Shaq to be a bit clingy. He’s a cool guy and fun to hangout with but he’s kind of eager and not very mellow. Like, the other day we were yard saling and Shaq goes absolutely berserk over this Fonzi pillow. I could tell that he was really just trying to impress me with his knowledge of 70’s sitcoms because I told him that he was too young to be Gen X and he’s deadset on proving me wrong.
Day 27. The good news is that the team is in first place. The bad news is that I’m giving Shaq Fu the cold shoulder this week because I heard him bragging to a friend on the team about how he wasn’t taking my notes anymore. That’s such bullshit. If Shaq doesn’t like what I have to say about the way he’s playing the game of basketball then he should be man enough to talk to me about it. I thought we were supposed to be friends or something. And furthermore, he is taking my notes and is obviously trying to take credit for it himself which I find really lame and frankly, immature. So, fuck it, I don’t want to be his friend right now. Yesterday i proved it, he asked if I wanted to see “Kundun” with him again at the three dollar theater and I told him that I was going to Malibu for a hike with Kobe and that he wasn’t invited which I could tell really ticked him off. He acted like he didn’t care and said something about how he “loved seeing films alone anyway” but he was obviously bumming. Shaq always puts on this fake smile bit when he’s mad at me. I’ll start being nice to him again next week.
Day 40. We’ve fallen back to fourth place, fired the coach, and brought in Dennis (Rodman). Dennis and I have an adversarial relationship, to say the least. There’s a mutual respect between us and in many ways were alike but I think he had a grudge with me from the begining because I spread a rumor about him before he joined the team that he was a ball hog and a know-it-all.
Shaq and I are back on, our giggling fits during halftime have become somewhat legendary. Like at the Dallas game last week, I farted during Del’s halftime speech and everybody cracked up. It was really funny. Shaq said it sounded like someone droopped a dictionary on the floor. That really broke people up. Even Del laughed. And just when it seemed like we’d stopped giggling someone would break and we’d all start to crack up again. It was so funny. Shaq told me he laughed so hard his tummy hurt.
Day 48. We’ve won 6 games in a row and are on a roll. Things are really great. Last night a bunch of us went out and partied hearty. A friend of Rick Fox’s was having an invite only thing in Hollywood and we all crashed it. Kobe was so comical. He was like, “Heeeres Johnny”. It turns out Dennis is an awesome DJ and was putting on one classic song after another. Everyone was into it. We made him play “Faith” by George (Michael): like five time in a row. Before anyone knew it is was a total dance party. I couldn’t believe it. People were totally doing the cabbage patch and geting into it.. Shaq and I were like, “wow, this is getting out of hand”. And then one of the speakers blew which sucked but we were like “fuck it” and we just kept going. Everyone was like, “we’ll call it ‘The One Speaker Party!’ It’ll be classic”. At one point we all got in a circle and everybody took turns going into the middle and doing a little solo. We were all doing silly dances for eachother, Kobe’s was kind of corny and awkward but Shaq Fu was so comical because he does the Pee Wee Herman so well. It’s totally classic. Everyone said so. Even Del got into it with his crazy bad Molly Ringwald dance that she did in “Breakfast Club”. Then there’s this lull and Kobe got this devilish grin on his face and suggested we play “I Never”, and it was this total nervous energy in the room. And everybody’s like “ugh, uh…uh…” and I could tell that this girl I’d been talking to wanted to play, and I’m like, “I’ll play if you’ll play” and she’s like “I’ll play if you play” and Kobe’s like completely running the show, getting everyone psyched and the next thing I know, it’s like this crazy make out scene. Long story short, it’s basically like this total orgy, where like, everyone’s making out and kissing and like, it was nuts.
Day 65. The season is almost over. Dennis is gone. I’m kind of bummed but it’s probably the right thing. Shaq Fu seemed really upset and I could tell that he was wanting to talk about it. We waited after practice for everyone to leave and went into the middle of the court and just talked. We must have talked for hours that night. About everything. We talked about God and war and Shaq told me all about what it was like being so tall. At one point we just stopped talking. There really wasn’t anything to say. We jsut sat there. Shaq told me there were a couple of old sleeping bags n the locker room and did I want to camp out on the court that night. I knew I had a long day coming up but I hadn’t gone camping in awhile and this seemed like a perfect oppurtuninty. We talked more, and eventually got into one of our giggling fits again. Then we fell asleep. It seemed like we were up all night but it turns out we fell asleep at about 10 oclock. You lose track of time when you go camping.
Day 87. Last entry. The playoffs are right around the corner and everybodys getting psyched. Shaq and I didn’t really tell anyone about our camping trip. It was our little secret. Now when I see Shaq at practice or on the street we say “Hello”. Maybe “How are you?” Things have definitely changed. BUt we’ll always remember that year and what it was like to be good friends even though it couldn’t last forever.