At a summer press conference, three new Lakers admitted that Kobe Bryant, the star of the franchise, had yet to contact them. The following is a real life account of the spooky events that occurred after their dark confession:
The three men slumped out of the pressroom. Cameras flashed behind them. Questions hung in the air. Tiny worlds stillborn and still.
“Why didn’t you say something?” asked Lou Williams.
“Who? Me?” Roy Hibbert had to look down at the man grabbing at his shirtsleeve. “What was I supposed to say?”
“You could have told them.”
“Told them what?”
“You know, that we think Kobe’s disappeared.”
“And you think they would have believed me?”
The third man, Brandon Bass, chimed in, “Well, isn’t that your specialty—disappearing?”
Hibbert weighed the benefits of coldcocking the sonofabitch right there, but refrained—like always. “You really think he’s not here?” He gulped, the scruff on his Adam’s apple rising and falling.
“Just look at his locker,” answered Lou, gesturing towards shadowy dust and cobwebbed light. “Does that look like the man’s been here?”
“Well, he was injured,” added Hibbert. “That could be it, right?” His voice cracked.
“Even if he was hurt,” began Bass, “don’t you think they’d keep his locker clean? I mean, this is a highly successful franchise. You’d think they’d at least have a janitorial staff.” As he spoke, a large spider descended from the top of Kobe Bryant’s locker.
“Don’t change the subject, Brandon. This is about Kobe, not the franchise,” the gears in Williams’ mind visibly cranked through the muscles in his face. “We have to start looking for clues.”
“You mean like this one?” Bass presented an envelope to his new teammates.
Williams opened and read its contents. “Where did you get this?”
“A reporter gave it to me.”
“Before or after we were made to look like a bunch of punks at the press table?”
“Before, I guess.”
“Yeah, what reporter?” Hibbert piggybacked on Williams’ line of questioning.
“Maybe I shouldn’t tell. Like maybe I shouldn’t reveal my sources.”
“Revealing sources, while risky, can actually boost one’s credibility,” lectured Hibbert, index finger erect.
“Who was it?” Williams chomped at the bit.
“I think we all know who it was,” said Bass.
“Who?” yipped Hibbert, wondering whether he had already missed out on some vital clue.
“It was Chris Broussard.” Williams crumpled the envelope and its letter. The paper snowball landed on the floor.
Hibbert stooped a mountain peak’s distance to grab the letter. He unballed I, releasing ripples of hot and cold fragrances into the air. His voice cracked like it belonged to some cartoon dog, “Icy hot.”
“Yeah, I noticed that, too,” pondered Bass.
Hibbert read the letter: We have him. No signature followed this brief declarative statement and its glittery ink. Hibbert looked at his teammates. “Who would want to kidnap Kobe Bryant?”
“Who wouldn’t? Dude’s an asshole,” answered Williams.
“You know, Shaquille did an Icy Hot ad once.”
“I don’t think it’s him, though, Brandon. The purple ink and all that Laker girl sparkle tells me it’s an inside job. As in the culprit is still here in the building this very moment.”
Hibbert gulped. His eyes went wide. He felt hungry.
“We should split up,” suggested Williams. “Bass, you come with me. Hibbert, you go that way.
Hibbert almost asked why he must go it alone, but retreated from the controversy—finding Kobe was the most important thing to worry about right now.
Hibbert checked everywhere. He searched offices. He visited the team store, where he bought replica jerseys of all the old Laker greats, including both Wilt and Kareem. Recalling the smell of Icy Hot, he started towards the team physician’s office, but the haunting sounds of a lonely piano halted him in his tracks. He dropped his souvenir pompoms right where he stood. The music echoed from the heart of the Staples Center.
He followed it to toward the tunnel.
When he walked onto the floor, a lone spotlight shone down from the rafters, illuminating a golden concert piano. Playing the sad notes was Taylor Swift. He recognized the song as a scaled back version of her hit “Out of the Woods,” but, strangely, Hibbert felt more in the woods than ever. What the hell was going on? Swift finished the song, and Hibbert applauded as she walked around the gold monument and bowed.
“Welcome to the Lakers, Roy!”
“Thanks, Ms. Swift.” He felt smitten.
“Please, call me Taylor.”
“Alright, Ms. Swift.”
“Are you ready for the season, Roy?”
“Well, sort of. Um, it seems we’re missing Kobe.”
“Really? That’s a shame. I can’t imagine the Lakers without Kobe Bryant. Who would get all the accolades?”
“I don’t know. I guess it would have to be someone else.”
“Someone like you, Roy?” Swift stepped closer.
“I don’t know.” He gulped, and his voice cracked. “Maybe.”
“Well, Roy, I can’t let that happen.” She pulled out a remote control with a single button and pushed it emphatically. A mechanism of gears and pulleys sounded from above and Roy looked up—a net was crashing down upon him, its ropes like so many spiders’ legs. He tried to move, but he lacked the lateral quickness. He was caught.
“Why did you do that, Ms. Swift?” Her voice no longer sounded young and full of beauty. In all honesty, she spoke as if she were an old man.
“What’s going on with your voice?” the big man yelped.
“It’s all the singing.”
“Oh, well, I still don’t know why you wanted to trap me in this net.”
“Don’t trust her, Roy!” The voice shouted from the arena’s darkness, and Roy stared in it direction. Under one of the baskets, Lou and Brandon looked to be tied together with old championship banners.
“Yeah! Roy! Don’t trust her!”
The two struggled to loosen their bonds.
Taylor Swift started pressing the single button with a fury. Roy looked up, expecting another net or a giant hook, but nothing happened.
“Damn batteries!” yelled Swift.
Then again, maybe old Roy wasn’t caught. He looked down at his shoes; the net only reached to his knees. Like so many times before in his life, his verticality had saved him. He walked towards Swift as she struggled to change the batteries. His arms extended before him, he moved like a cartoon mummy. His long arms went on forever. In no time at all he was palming her head as if it were a blond basketball. He thought he would hold her like a playground bully until help arrived—Jack Nicholson couldn’t be far. Where was everyone? Why was she here? Why the net? Why tie up Lone and Brandon? He needed answers. She slipped out of his fingers, and yet his hand was not empty. He held tight to the yellow wig and the rubbery face attached to it.
Swift’s body limped madly away before turning back to reveal the face of a familiar villain in the spotlight: old man Donald Sterling, former owner of the L.A. Clippers.
“Oh my!” yelled Roy.
“Oh my, indeed,” echoed Sterling through a sickle blade of teeth.
“You’re not Taylor Swift!”
“No, Roy, I’m not.”
But the man was gone in a cloud of smoke, leaving Roy and his teammates alone with a golden piano, its keys moving without a player, the sounds of Taylor Swift’s 1989 raining through the arena.
Bryan Harvey tweets @LawnChairBoys.