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Thursday, April 28, 2016

one hell of a date night

okay, so i have a lot of mixed emotions when it comes to kobe bryant.  i mean, the guy has worn a lot of hats during his time in the public eye:  brilliant basketball player, longtime laker, devoted dad, adulterer, (alleged) rapist.  yikes.  i also have a lot of great memories tied to watching laker games with all sorts of people i love, during which we did a whole lot of cheering for kobe.  i dunno.  like i said, mixed bag of feelings about that dude.

and then when he announced his retirement after this season, i tried to convince the hub that we needed to go see him play at staples just one more time before he hung up his #24 jersey for good.  he tried his best, but everyone seemed to want to hang on to their tickets...or offered to sell them for some majorly inflated prices.

two days before kobe's final game, the hub called me while he was out having dinner with friends.

"do you think we can get someone to watch the bean on wednesday night?"
"i think the old lady can do it, i just have to ask her.  why?"
"well, we're gonna go out on a date."


yup.  he managed to work some kind of crazy purple and gold magic, because wednesday came and we were heading down to staples center, insanely excited to be present for what promised to be one hell of an evening.

i got to break out my jersey from the closet, where it'd been hanging since i last wore it - for the second hollywood half marathon.  heh.

we were bummed to see that the parking structure was already completely full, but managed to get lucky and find a spot in a lot just across the street...for much less than what we thought we'd have to pay.  score!  and then as we made our way towards staples, we found ourselves in a swarming sea of purple and gold and jerseys with 8s and 24s on them.

in this tent, we heard there were either laker girls signing autographs and taking pictures or championship trophies to admire and photograph.

in the middle of the street, there was a dj spinning tunes and leading the crowd in a dance party.

and the big screen was playing a reel of highlights from kobe's long career with the lakers.

staples center itself was adorned with huge photos and "thank you kobe" signs.

an inflatable kobe, larger than life.

there were huge jumpers, inflatable slides, a rock wall, and a basketball court where there were lots of kids playing and having a blast.  it was quite the scene, full of lakers and kobe fans of all ages. but we had a game to get to, and we were hungry.  after checking out the lineup of restaurants across the street at l.a. live, we decided to join the relatively short line at lawry's carvery.  check out my plate o'prime rib:

it was so good, and i ate every bite.  we hadn't been to any sort of lawry's restaurant in ages, not since we discovered how easy it is to recreate at home.  although prime rib isn't exactly something you can just bust out anytime the craving hits, so i was really happy.  nothing like a full belly, yeah?

back at staples center, the lines to get in the door were...well:

we somehow managed to find a much shorter line as we walked around the building to the other side. and when we finally made it inside, our seats weren't too hard to find.  look at how close our seats were:

the only thing was that we weren't actually seated together - we were one row apart.  the dude whose season ticket the hub had bought explained that he usually managed to switch with someone, or there were always no-shows.  but this being a pretty big deal, every seat was filled.  we were, however, right next to the tunnel used by the visiting team to enter and exit the stadium.

it also happened to be the entrance that all of the VIPs were using that night.  not long after we were seated, the hub pointed and said "look!"  i turned my head and saw...

yes.  that is indeed david and brooklyn beckham.  holy shit.  i was completely dumbfounded and i'm shocked i even managed to take that picture.  we watched as they made their way to their courtside seats (of course).

there was some sort of giant bag placed on all of those seats, which i'm sure contained all sorts of fun swag.  david apparently decided that he didn't want to have to kick that bag all night, and so he took his and brooklyn's and headed back out, presumably to put it in his car.  or have someone put it in there for him.  who knows.

he'd been spotted by lots of others, and a few of them standing next to me got his attention and asked for a picture.  he held up his bag and said "i'll be back!" and went on his merry way.

naya rivera walked by right after that.

and then?  adam levine and behati prinsloo.

as we watched them disappear into the VIP cave of wonders, we spied beckham coming back through.  and after the two fans in front of me got their pictures, the hub took this:

YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS.  money shot right there.  i didn't even care if i got to see any other celebrities...my night was made.

this man, sitting in the corner just behind me, knew everybody who came through.  celebrities, employees, players all stopped to say hello and shake his hand.  i still wonder who he was.

derek fisher is one of my most favorite basketballers of all time.  i would have loved to meet him even for a second, but this is the closet i ever got to him (in the hat).

and then it was time.  the lights went down, the music started playing, and this curtain went up and then dropped again to show a reel of all sorts of famous faces giving props to kobe.

the crowd went wild when lamar odom appeared to tell a story about his days of playing with kobe.  he was in the stadium too, sitting way across from us next to kanye.

flea appeared in the middle of the court to play his rendition of the national anthem on his guitar.

after a quick introduction of both teams, it was game time.

the game started off slow, and i figured it was going to be just another losing laker game.  the last few seasons have been pretty terrible.  but i was still fully entertained, not having been to a game since shaq was on the team.  heh.  and then out of the corner of my eye, i saw a familiar face - josh hutcherson from "the hunger games."

what up, snoop.

if you look at the lower middle of this picture, you'll see someone in a bright ass yellow shirt.  that's kanye, with lamar in a gray sweatshirt and black baseball hat on his right.

my actual game photos are terrible.  i look much further away than i really was.

at halftime, a lot of the celebs/VIPs came back through to...i don't know, grab snacks?  go potty?  so i got to see the weekend almost run right into naya rivera, holding hands with whichever hadid sister it is he's currently dating.

a blurry shot of anthony anderson on the left.

jeremy piven is somewhere in the middle of this craziness.

and andy garcia, who doesn't look quite as i remember him from "ocean's eleven."  time will do that, i suppose.

this dude had the seat right in front of me, and when he got there he looked at me, smiled and said "i'll switch seats with you if you want to make sure you have a good view of the game."  he turned out to be some sort of bodyguard/bouncer type guy for lamar, because he kept a close eye on him at all times and jumped up whenever he noticed that he was going to get up.  and he asked me to take a picture of him with the game in the background, complete with big ass grin and a thumbs-up.  it was kind of funny.

i'm pretty sure this is kobe's very last free throw shot as an NBA player.  oooooooooh.  aaaaaaaaaah.

to my right was one of my other favorite lakers.  rick fox, vanessa williams' ex and now works as an actor, was watching the last few minutes of what turned out to be one hell of a game.  and off to the right you'll see lamar with brian shaw.

after a fairly lackluster first half, kobe somehow managed to flip a switch and turn it on.  he scored a total of 60 points in his final game, helping the team actually win over the utah jazz.  the last quarter was particularly exciting, and it reminded me of the old days when every laker game was fun as hell to watch.  when it was over, he came out and spoke to the fans, who gave him plenty of love from all corners of the stadium.

and then it was all over.  we watched everyone gathering out on the court to do a little socializing and probably a little schmoozing, and look!  there's kanye chatting casually with beckham right there.

in the middle of this shot you'll see a giant dude in a gray suit.  that's shaq.

dyan cannon, longtime laker fan, walked by with a balloon in her hand, which she tossed towards some fans who squealed in delight.

stink eye from george lopez.

and arsenio!  wooop woooop woooop.

hello, kendrick lamar.

i caught one more glimpse of derek fisher and his hat before the ushers came to...well, usher us out.

bye, staples center!  see ya, kobe!  thanks for a great night!

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