Kobe Bryant, feet apart, aims and fires. For the rush. His release valve from the pressures of the NBA. Blasting the hell out of a paper target does the trick. He looks forward to the challenge.
Smush Parker, an old teammate pushes through the door, stops, and taps Kobe on the shoulder.
Kobe pulls down his earmuffs. "Hey, Smush Parker. What are you doing here?"
"I can't come in and shoot off my gun a few times? I gotta have your permission?"
"Hey. Relax. I haven't seen you for what?...7 years."
Kobe sets out another paper target, a torso and head outline. He sets his earmuffs, points his Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum, and blasts. Six shots. He retrieves the target. All six shots in the forehead.
"Well," says Smush. "I'm sure you've heard the interview I did for TMZ. I told them you were a terrible teammate, so I stopped passing you the ball."
"Yeah, I heard," says Kobe, pulling down his earmuffs. "And you think I was the reason you got traded...back in 2005. Face it, it was your lack of talent. You cost me the 2005-06 MVP trophy to Steve Nash."
???You said I was the worst. I didn't belong in the NBA. So, you had them replace me with Jordan Farmar in the playoffs. I was better than him." He stares at Kobe.
"It wasn't the passing, Smush. You just weren't that good. What are you doing now? You left the NBA. I heard Iran?"
Smush unzips a bag and pulls out his gun.
"What the hell?" says Kobe.
Smush hold the gun at arm's length. "It's a Pfeifer Zeliska 28mm. World's biggest hand gun."
"I thought my gun was big."
Smush sets up and shoots. Two hits out of six. Smush looks at his target, then glances over at Kobe's target. His shakes his head.
"So what have you been doing since you left the NBA," asks Kobe.
"Well after you made them trade me...I played for the Heat, and I was doing good, then I get jumped by this guy in the parking lot...but it's too hot down there, and the bugs, so I got a chance with the Clippers."
He puts on his earmuffs on again, and shoots. Three hits this time. He glares down at the gun, and then sights down the barrel. He takes a deep breath. His hands shake.
"Didn't you play with the Nuggets?" asks Kobe.
"So? I played with the Nuggets...2008."
"You know Smush, there are tons of players who have rings because they were my teammates. They played as part of the team. They didn't hog the ball. You just didn't perform when you were supposed to."
"What he hell? I performed. You know that."
"The Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the NBA Development League. I think that's where you went next?"
"What, you been stalking me? I'd still be on the Lakers wasn't for you." Smush stares over at Kobe. Sweat forms above his eyebrows.
"Sour grapes, Smush." Kobe puts on his earmuffs, and pulls off six more. They all hit chest high.
"It's only because you played with me, you got signed with Guangdong Southern Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association, I read about it."
Smush hold his gun to his side. He glares at Kobe. He takes a step toward him. "You know so much about me..."
"You can't blame me for getting dropped by the Tigers," says Kobe. "Then it's the Russian club Spartak Saint Petersburg."
"So I went to Saint Petersburg. I stayed a professional."
"Last year I played in Greece with Iraklis Thessaloniki B.C...So what? You know, I don't like you, Bryant. Never did." He waves his gun in the air.
Kobe moves back. He looks around for security.
"I don't care." Smush gets very loud. "I'm traveling around the world. That against the law? Petrochimi Bandar Imam of the Iranian Super League, played some in Venezuela, then signed with the Indios de San Francisco of the Dominican Republic."
"Well, I'm real glad you're getting a chance to see the world."
He jams on the earmuffs, and shoots. He misses the target altogether. He breathes through his teeth. His body shakes.
"You didn't fit into our program," says Kobe. "You know I could have been MVP."
"I didn't kiss your ass. That's the reason."
He yells, "You're the one who screwed me," and waves the gun in the air. Wildly. The Pfeifer Zeliska 28mm goes off. One. Two. Three times. Fire. Smoke. Explosion. Like an earthquake, the entire Hotel shakes.
Kobe grabs his leg and goes down, hit high in his thigh. Kobe's mouth opens but there is no sound.
Blood shoots everywhere.
Smush freezes, ducks down, turns, and bolts for the door. Up the stairwell, he's out onto Wilshire Boulevard, across the street, past Cartiers on the corner and up Rodeo Drive.
But running down the sidewalks of Beverly Hill is a mistake, especially when you hold a large, very large, hand gun.
The police react quickly in Beverly Hills. Very quickly. Police cars already block the street, their doors open, guns drawn. "Stop," "Drop the gun. "On your knees." All at once. Smush knows there's no way. "Damn." He stops and as he raises his hands, another cop tackles him from behind. His face mashed to the cement, he watches his Pfeifer Zeliska 28mm bounce into the street, and slide into a storm drain, gone. "Damn." Kobe's fault. I hate him. I hate him.
Six hours later and a $100,000 bond, he sits on a bed at the Beverly Hills Hotel. ESPN, he watches the news conference from Cedars Sinai Hospital.
"We were talking basketball, and Smush kinda lost it. We were at the Gun Club, and well, he shoots me in the leg. It really hurts, but my uniform will cover the bandages. I'll be playing tonight. A little gun shot can't stop me."
And it didn't. Against the Clippers, Kobe, with a slight limp, scored 29 points, 8 rebounds, 5 blocked shots.
Smush watches the game. He paces as he watches. He wants to punch the screen.
Then, after the game: "We'll just have to see what the doctor says. Smush, I don't know, probably had a lot of anger issues to overcome. About pressing charges against him? Well, he did shoot me in the leg."
As for Smush, he's in the wind. Last seen late last night, on his stomach, reaching down into a storm drain along Rodeo Drive. Smush, don't leave town, the Beverly Hills Police would like to talk.
The entire argument can be found:
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