Kobe Bryant stalked from a basketball game for the first time since he could remember. He was ejected for the first time ever.
That he carries a deep scrape across his forehead and others on his arms and shoulders only begins to speak to his frustration, now that he is marked as a guy to stop at all cause.
Bryant waited around to clap the backs of his teammates, who carried the game into overtime and beat the Clippers, 116-114, Saturday night at Staples Center in large part without him and, at the end, without Shaquille O’Neal.
Then, he had to go.
Two technical fouls--one called in the second quarter by Bob Delaney and the second late in the third by Rashan Michel--left the Lakers without Bryant. O’Neal fouled out before the end of regulation.
“That was horrible,” Bryant said, barely slowing on the way to his car, of the second technical. “That was horrible. I called him pathetic. I let him get the best of me.
“I’m walking away. I’m looking at him, to see if he’s going to call the technical. He takes the whistle out of his mouth. I walk back to the huddle, and he called the technical 10 seconds later. After I walked away.”
Bryant said it wasn’t only his body that is abused. His disappointment extended to the hacks of Shaq and the groping, grinding defenses that routinely try to slow the Lakers. They are easy targets, he said.
“They want to treat this team unjustly, somebody has to let them know about it,” Bryant said. “If I get thrown out of the game because of it, so be it. We have to keep our composure and keep calm to a certain extent. I totally lost my cool. They let us get beat up. Somebody has to let them know about it. I don’t regret doing it at all.
“The second one was horrible. The first one was fine. If you’re going to T somebody up, do it right there on the spot.”
Robert Horry scored nine overtime points and he blocked the shot at the end of overtime that might have tied it. Horace Grant had the tip that gave the Lakers their last lead.
“I’m proud of the way they fought,” said Bryant, who scored 17 points, 13 below his league-leading average. “Robert’s been doing that all season long. He always gets those sneaky points in overtime. He just turned it up and came through for us.”
Only two weeks ago, Horry did not score a regulation point at Toronto, then scored six in overtime. The Lakers won, 104-101.
This was more dramatic, as Clippers strained to end a cumbersome losing streak to the Lakers that finally reached 16 games.
The last time the Lakers and Clippers played here, in a Staples Center all dressed up for the Lakers and still not their home game, Bryant found himself surrounded by white shirts.
At the halftime buzzer, Bryant had taken a hard right, through the north tunnel that leads to the Laker locker room. He had no notion, probably, that he had broken the rules of NBA security and arena etiquette.
From behind him, a voice, from one of the Clippers.
“Hey,” it said, “what are you doing man? You can’t walk out here.”
Bryant turned and ducked his head a little. From that posture, he could point to the seven banners that hang on the other end of the building.
“Let me tell you something,” he said. “Until you guys get a couple of those banners up there, this is our house. For real.”
Even as the Clippers test reasonably well in other arenas and other towns against other franchises, there is still this Laker thing, in this arena, in this town, against this franchise. The Laker winning streak is so hale, it dates to previous arenas, previous coaches, previous attitudes.