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Something’s off with Rob Pelinka’s story about Heath Ledger and Kobe Bryant

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Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka addresses the media May 20 in El Segundo.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka loves telling stories. One of them involves former Lakers star Kobe Bryant and the late actor Heath Ledger.

And it might not be true.

ESPN’s Baxter Holmes shares that story in a lengthy article published Tuesday about the Lakers’ failed experiment of having the inexperienced Pelinka and Magic Johnson running the organization the past two years.

Back in 2018, Pelinka brought in Dwayne Johnson to address the team as a motivational speaker. While introducing the pro-wrestler-turned-actor, Pelinka told the players a story about another Hollywood actor.

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“There was one time when Kobe, who I worked with for 18 years, was going back to play in Madison Square Garden, and he had just seen ‘The Dark Knight,’” Pelinka said (starting around the 1:30 mark in the video below). “Obviously, you guys saw that movie. And he’s like, ‘Hey, hook me up with dinner with Heath Ledger, because he got so locked into that role. I want to know how he mentally went there.’ And so he had dinner with Heath, and he talked about how he locks in for a role.

“And Kobe used some of that in his game against the Knicks.”

As Holmes (and multiple folks commenting on the YouTube video over the past year) pointed out, Ledger died in January 2008, almost six months before “The Dark Knight” was released in theaters.

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In other words, Bryant would not seem to have had the opportunity to meet with Ledger after seeing his performance in that movie.

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The Lakers did play the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 23, 2007 (and not again until Feb. 2, 2009), and “The Dark Knight” had finished shooting by then, so it’s possible that Bryant may have seen some early footage of the film. Or maybe Pelinka just got mixed up and Bryant wanted the meeting after watching another one of Ledger’s movies.

But Holmes reports that “a source with direct knowledge said no such arrangement was made and no dinner ever took place.”

And such an untruth would seem consistent with the portrait Holmes paints of Pelinka.

“We think, more often than not, he’s not being truthful,” a member of the Lakers coaching staff said in the article. “That goes throughout the organization.”

Pelinka told Holmes he’s not concerned with that or any other perception others may have of him.

“My job is to not worry about what other people may think or say about me as a person. My job is to do the work and what’s best for this franchise, and that’s where my focus is.

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charles.schilken@latimes.com

Twitter: @chewkiii


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