Dodger Thoughts

Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball and life

Tag: Kobe Bryant

Father and child

This morning, I was driving Youngest Master Weisman to a school event and while preparing to make a left turn, a car coming the opposite direction sped through the red light. I shuddered. And once again, I thought, “that’s how quickly it can happen.”

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Who was the Dodgers’ Kobe?

Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant at Dodger Stadium, July 31, 2013. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant at Dodger Stadium, July 31, 2013. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

By Jon Weisman

It’s hard to be a sports fan in Los Angeles and not be affected by the end of Kobe Bryant’s career. Twenty seasons in a Los Angeles uniform? For one attempt at perspective, here’s the Dodger starting lineup on June 26, 1996, the day the 17-year-old Bryant was drafted.

Delino DeShields, 2B
Roger Cedeno, LF
Mike Piazza, C
Eric Karros, 1B
Raul Mondesi, RF
Mike Blowers, 3B
Todd Hollandsworth, CF
Greg Gagne, SS
Tom Candiotti, P

Candiotti, the starting pitcher that day, is now 58 years old.

On the way to work this morning, I asked myself who would be the Dodgers’ closest equivalent to Bryant, a spectacular, championship-winning (future) Hall of Famer who wore only one team’s uniform (albeit with two numbers). It won’t surprise you that there’s no exact match, but I do think there’s a closer one than you might realize.

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The Kemp-Kobe-Clinton connection

Clinton Kobe Kemp

Herschel Walker, President Bill Clinton, Kobe Bryant, Allyson Felix and Matt Kemp. (@billclinton)

By Jon Weisman

Matt Kemp joined a series of discussions about the future of kids and sports at the Clinton Health Matters Conference at La Quinta on Monday. Ramona Shelburne of has more.

… According to a 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study, children ages 8 to 18 spend more than 7½ hours a day in front of a screen (a television, computer or playing video games). It’s a staggering figure that’s contributed to the United States having one of the highest child obesity rates in the world. A 2012 American Medical Association study found that obesity in children ages 6 to 11 has doubled in the past 30 years. Among adolescents ages 12 to 19, it has tripled.

“This may be the least active generation of young people in history,” Clinton said. “The problem is that this can have lasting, damaging effects on all of them and actually wind up shortening their life expectancy. So we’re doing this because there are simple solutions to this problem that will pay massive dividends.”

Bryant and Clinton discussed the causes of the epidemic as well as ideas and solutions to tackle the problem. Their discussion was moderated by Mike Greenberg, host of ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike,” and will be broadcast on Feb. 9 on ESPN2, along with interviews conducted by Olympian and ESPN soccer analyst Julie Foudy, and a panel discussion involving Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, Olympic sprinter Allyson Felix, Olympian and former NFL star Herschel Walker and United States Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun that was moderated by Aspen Institute Sports and Society director and ESPN contributor Tom Farrey.

The panel discussed several issues, including inequitable access to sports across socioeconomic classes, strategies to make sports and fitness relevant and fun for a generation of kids with more entertainment choices than ever before, and the increasing specialization and professionalization of youth sports that often leads to early burnout and saps the joy from competition. …

… Kemp spoke of playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic in 2006 and seeing kids playing baseball late into the night, having the time of their lives, and how that reminded him of his childhood, playing with other kids in the neighborhood well after dark, until his mom finally made him come inside. …

Andre and Kobe: Walkoff heroes

Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US Presswire, Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images
Andre Ethier celebrates his 13th-inning game-winning home run Sept. 15 vs. Pittsburgh, his sixth walkoff hit of 2009; Kobe Bryant revels in the first of his seven 2009-10 game-winners, Dec. 4 vs. Miami.

Which do you prefer?

Andre Ethier played 160 games last year. Plenty of chances to be a game-ending hero, right? There’s no clock. He might have more than one chance in a game to be a walkoff wonder. The 0:00 can come when he says so.

But he can’t even control whether he’ll be able to get anywhere close to the ball in the final moment. He might be five batters away. And if he is up, who knows what kind of pitch he gets to hit? The bigger a threat he seems, the less likely he is going to be given anything to swing at. It’s curving away from him at 75 miles per hour; it’s trying to blow past him at 95. It’s still hitting a small ball with a stick of wood in the most pressure-packed of circumstances.

In a way, it still seems like a fluke – but the job got done and done and done and done and done and done.

Then there’s Kobe Bryant, who did it again Tuesday. No problem getting him the ball – it’s not like the opponent can intentionally walk him. Everyone knows it’s coming to him. But that’s the thing – everyone knows. The defense can try to smother him. He can pass it, but except for the occasional Derek Fisher or Robert Horry in his life, so often it seems the other guys don’t know what to do with the ball when the clock’s ticking down.

There aren’t too many layups in baseball, but on the other hand, there’s no double- or triple-teaming, either.

In the end, I think there’s something more magical about the baseball walkoff hero – and something more real about the basketball walkoff hero.

Either way, what Andre Ethier did last season is amazing. What Kobe Bryant is doing this season is amazing. The ball sailing toward the stands. The ball drilled to the hoop. The trot around the bases. The exultation on the hardwood. The dogpile at home plate. The strut to the locker room.

The crowd going wild. The crowd going wild! Wow and wow.

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