April 14, 2016

Kobe’s Second Life: Chili Peppers Roadie

Though you could taste the vomit in the mouths of 18,000 fans as Flea slapped through a National Anthem swan song for Kobe last night, one man was visibly mesmerized: Kobe himself. Near the end, Kobe licked his lips to Flea’s stanky licks, and gave a serene nod that I assume signaled one thing: “After I retire, I’m going to be a Chili Peppers roadie.” I wouldn’t be surprised if Kobe soon took to Facebook to write a tribute like this:

June 7, 1999—My afro was disheveled, I didn’t believe I belonged in LA, and I stumbled into a Sam Goody.

Two weeks earlier the Spurs swept us in the Western Semis—game four was the last game ever at the Forum. I thumbed through the jazz aisle, just looking for something to empty my head. The lockout season had me thinking about college—maybe CPAs had better work environments. I was also nervous about turning 21 later that summer—so many tasty bars in LA, where should I get my first legal drink?

Then the slap bass jumped through the ceiling speakers. It sounded like a pouncing panther. Then furious drums, and a howling man, who sounded like he might about to be mauled by that panther. My heart galloped. My soul vaulted.

What is this?, I ask the mop-headed Sam Goody rep.

Kobe, it’s the Chili Peps!

I had never heard of them. They never played them on Power 99 back in Philly.

This is “Around the World,” the opening track to Californication, out today. It will change your life.

Never has a 40-year-old man in a Bowling for Soup T-shirt been more right. I bought the album, and the funk brought me out of my funk.

You know the rest. We christened the Staples Center with a three-peat. But what no one understands is I owe it all to Anthony Kiedis and Flea. I got obsessed. I stayed up until 4:00 a.m. arguing about Freaky Styley B-sides on RHCP message boards (username: suckmymamba). Adidas designed a Black Mamba Tube Sock that I wore under my shorts for every home game. I gave friends and family walking tours of the Chili Pepper’s Los Angeles—with stops at Canter’s Deli, Hollywood Blvd., and under the bridge at MacArthur Park.

RCHP has been my North Star through every step of my career. When Shaq abandoned me in 2004, I played “I Could Die for You” on repeat for four days. Within the black hole of all the shoulder, knee, and ankle injuries, there was the grace of “Scare Tissue.” But if you want to take a portal into my soul, listen to Californication’s denouement, “Road Trippin.’”

Road trippin’ with my two favorite allies

This captures the tranquility I felt traveling with Shaq and Coach Phil so well I played it every time we took off for a road game. I used to put in on a boombox just as we took off, but Ron Harper is such a Pearl Jam loyalist he made me put on my headphones.

Fully loaded we got snacks and supplies

I always had my Nerds, and Coach had his Bugles, which cracked every time he tried to glove them over his giant fingers.

So much as come before those battles lost and won

This life is shining more forever in the sun

Even if we lost by 20 to Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Vancouver, we always had each other. Some nights we’d stay in the plane hours after it landed back at LAX, philosophizing about our smallness in the universe, Shaq and I munching Bugles off Coach’s fingers. You haven’t tasted a Bugle until you tasted it off Phil Jackson’s ring finger.

Thank you fans, thank you David Stern, thank you coaches. Most of all, thank you Peppers.



MARCH 25, 2016

Hey gang. I had the fortune of having this Good Friday off, and I thought of no more of an appropriate way to reflect on the crucifixion of Jesus Christ than watching the Easter Extravaganza of ABC's daytime talk-show FABLife, hosted by Chrissy Teigen and Joe Zee.