Even the shrieks from the crowds of young women in spandex were
not enough to satisfy Ed Lover, the rap fixture who was emcee
for the evening. Before he would bring the main attraction on
stage, Lover demanded more noise. "That's all right," he said of
the first volley of screams, "if I was gonna introduce one of
the f---ing Clippers!"
More hollering, and then suddenly Bryant, in a black jumpsuit
better suited for a termite inspection than a sweaty night
performing as part of a rap and soul revue, stepped triumphantly
out. It was downhill from there.
Though Bryant stalked the stage gamely, risking rotator cuff
injury with a repeated stabbing motion of his right hand, the
thunderous, muddy hip-hop beats blasting from the sound system
pretty much obliterated his diffidently deployed skills. "I was
schooled to never look back..." rapped the 21-year-old. "I
grabbed the mike and started rapping." Those were the only
discernible lyrics of Bryant's set.
At the end of the night--as one female fan sprayed those around
her with a bottle of champagne, locker room style--two dozen
performers and hangers-on crowded onstage with Kobe. Seated on a
drum riser and half-hidden by a gyrating kid trio called Da
Babies, the hoop star had the sheepish grin of an accountant
wondering if he had just gone overboard at the karaoke bar.