Yes, it's true. My buddy Feddd and I played high school ball with Kobe Bryant. When we were seniors, and Kobe a junior, our Lower Merion squad made it to the District Finals and to the second round of the state tournament. By the time the season ended, Kobe was considered the top player in the country, I had lost my virginity, and Feddd was closer to his parents than he'd ever been.
On paper, it might appear that Feddd and I enjoyed similar athletic careers but in truth our experiences were quite different. I was the starting point guard and Feddds was widely thought to be an assistant coach. What follows is an account from both of us of the District Semifinal against Richard Hamilton and Coatesville, played at the famed Palestra in Philadelphia.
Ev: As I stroll around the locker room getting loose for the biggest game of my career, Kobe comes over to me excited and raring to go.
“You ready, Triggerman?” Kob asks me. Triggerman is the silly nickname I was given by a local sportswriter who once wrote that I was “the triggerman in the Evan-Kobe alley-oop connection.”
“No doubt, KB.” I give Kob a pound, both of us confident and prepared to take down Richard Hamilton and Coatesville. We discuss how we’re going to defend Rip, try to limit his touches, and deny him all over the court.
Feddd: Half-dressed and suddenly surrounded by Coatesville players, two things occur to me: I’m in the wrong locker room and I might be gay. Shirtless, I wander through the unfamiliar and ancient Palestra hallways until I find my team. I take a locker between my friend Chris Lawson and freshman three-point ace, Dan Pangrazio. Kobe Bryant is three lockers to my right. I really, really want to ask him for his autograph.
Ev: The pace of the game is frantic, up-tempo, run-and-gun, exactly how we like it. On an out-of-bounds play, I throw Kobe a lob and the crowd grimaces thinking I’m hoisting an ugly 28-foot three-pointer. Kobe leaps over everyone, catches the rock with two hands and flushes it right over some dude wearing Rec-Specs. The sold out Palestra crowd explodes as we strut back on D, and I glimpse up into the student section to see this cute little sophomore give me the most sparkling smile. This is so cool.
|Feddd rebounds for Ev and Kobe during practice.|
Ev: During a timeout, I can’t hear a word Coach is saying over the deafening crowd. KB, seated next to me suggests that we keep pushing the ball up the court, taking advantage of our speed and fast break. I’m not sure, but it looks like Feddd, who hasn’t played a minute, might be injured.
Feddd: Well, I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but I think I just sprained my ankle standing up. I hate timeouts. I can’t hear a goddamn word Coach is saying because nobody will let me in the huddle. Where the hell is my mom? I swear I’ve looked at everybody in the crowd and she swore she’d be here. If she doesn’t show, we’ll be making a little stop in Temper Tantrum City on our way to Baskin-Robbins after the game. Is it just me, or is that old woman in the Coatesville section giving me the finger? Not cool.
Ev: In a tight game coming down to the wire, Kobe fouls out with over 5 minutes remaining. One half of the arena celebrates while our faithful fans are silent, doubtful that we have any chance to win without the big fella. I gather up my fellow teammates and tell them that despite what everyone thinks, we did not get this far being a one-man team. We will pull this one out and this is our chance to shine. Kobe, devastated that he’s fouled out and unable to contribute, agrees and tells us that he has the utmost confidence in us. He says, “Don’t let it end like this fellas, refuse to lose.”
Feddd: Oh, Christ, Kobe just fouled out, we’re obviously going to lose. A whole season of sleepy legs for this? Is Ev talking? What could he possibly be saying? Who died and made him Knute Rockne? Is Knute Rockne dead?
Ev: Inspired by our captain’s words, we go out and blitz Coatesville. We dominate the final stages of the game, converting on numerous fast breaks and playing smart basketball leading us to victory and our first berth in the District Finals in over 40 years.
|Best Friends Forever|
Ev: Our student body rushes the court as we all celebrate, dancing, hugging, laughing, and enjoying the victory. That cute sophomore runs up to me and kisses me on the cheek, then sprints away with her friends, smiling. A euphoric rush fills my body as we head to the locker room where we talk to reporters, dance some more, and chow down on some free hoagies given to us by a local booster. During a post-game speech, Kobe thanks the team for pulling through, and allowing him the opportunity to play in at least one more game. This is the best hoagie I’ve ever had.
Feddd: Dickballs! Would it kill somebody to get a cheese hoagie? Or tuna? They know I’m a vegetarian. I do not eat red meat, they know that! What kind is this…ham, of course. Here’s a roast beef, oh, and here’s an Italian. And here’s a wad of meat wrapped in another wad of meat. Assholes! And this splinter is starting to look really bad. Is there such thing as wood poisoning? It’s turning pink, Jesus, it’s turning pink, what does that mean? Wait...Kobe's talking now. This looks emotional. Did he...son of a bitch, did he just call me Fred? Holy crap, Lawson just ripped one. How does nobody smell that?