Day 333: Kobe

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant

After a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers (my favorite sports team) Kobe Bryant announced that he’s retiring at the end of this season.

There’s an unofficial tradition in my family: picking a Laker to have a love/hate during his career. My uncle always complained about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. My dad couldn’t stand Magic Johnson.

Kobe was my love/hate Laker.

When things went bad, he was a ball hog, a player who didn’t play the game the right way, and a diva that would sabotage team goals in order to score more points or try to be the hero.

When things went well, he was basically Jordan 2.0.

His greatest individual moment was the perfect example of his good/bad: he scored the second-most points in NBA history, 81, on the same night where he dished out two assists. Two assists by one of the all-time greats on a night he was virtually unstoppable?

As someone who came of age when Magic could completely dominate a game without taking a shot, I saw this as one of the greatest sins a player could commit: not sharing the ball.

And yet, I remember that night, completely blown away by his shooting display (and the fact that the Raptors never double-teamed him). It showed everything good and bad about Kobe. His greatness was never in question; his commitment to playing the game the right way was. It’s why, even as a diehard Laker fan, I’d rather watch LeBron James. He’s the one who took the torch from Magic when it came to playing the game the way I watched it in the ’80s. A player who used his talent to make his teammates better.

Kobe was the closest thing we’ve seen to Jordan. He forced his teammates to bend to his will through his unparalleled dedication and preparation to the game he loved.

For me, his greatest display was during the 2001 playoff run, when the Lakers defeated three straight 50-win teams, going 15-1 in the postseason. The way they demolished the favored San Antonio Spurs was spectacular: Shaq and Kobe at their peak playing-powers, a modern Wilt-Jordan combination with the perfect set of complementary players and the best coach in NBA history.

Kobe played perfectly during that run, scoring at will yet doing all of the things a great teammate does: share the ball, rebound, and defend the opposition, but most importantly he made everyone better

It’s a shame that he and Shaq couldn’t work things out because I’d be writing about one of the all-time great players from the Greatest NBA Team Ever.

Instead, I’m appreciating one of the greatest to ever play the game (and one of the top five guards in history: MJ, Magic, Kobe, West, and The Big O) who was part of one of the most incredible postseason runs ever.

Day 332: Twenty Two

Carrie, Mark, and Harrison.

Carrie, Mark, and Harrison.

Twenty two.

That’s the number of times I saw the original Star Wars in a movie theater.

Somehow I convinced my parents to let me go every time the opportunity presented itself. Whether it was with my cousins or classmates, I was not going to miss out on seeing the movie set in a galaxy far, far away.

I saw it at the Pasadena Academy, a huge palace of a theater that now houses a multiplex. I saw it at the General Cinema in the mall, where my brothers and I always giggled at the opening music. I saw it at the drive-in.

I even saw an early bootleg copy on my uncle’s Betamax.

With The Force Awakens less than a month away, I’m curious to see how many times I end up seeing it. The last movie I saw twice in a theater was Avatar, thanks to the game-changing 3-D effects.

My wife and I have had our tickets for opening night for months (thanks to our local comic book store, which is hosting an early private screening) and I’m assuming that we’ll take our niece and nephew when they visit for the holidays. So that’s at least two times I’ll be in the theater. Of course, I’ll have to see it in IMAX, so that’s a third viewing.

But I don’t think I have the desire to see any movie 22 times in a theater. I’ll probably stop after the IMAX version. Of course, that won’t stop me from watching it at home several times after the Blu-Ray release … as long as J.J. Abrams doesn’t pull a George Lucas by adding a bunch of unnecessary CGI to everything.

In fact, can we start a petition for the Blu-Ray release to have FEWER lens flares? I’ve seen one in the trailers so far, but I’m sure there will be plenty more.

Note: This entry was inspired by this excellent article. If you lived through childhood during the 70s and 80s, you’ll appreciate it. 

Day 331: KISS Mini Golf

KISS by Monster Mini Golf

KISS by Monster Mini Golf

While I haven’t played the iconic Pebble Beach golf course yet, I have played miniature golf at a KISS-themed course. I’d like to think that it’s an icon of another kind, either of rock band merchandising or Las Vegas excess.

In either case, it was an awesome experience.

As a kid growing up in the late ’70s, KISS was everywhere. I remember seeing the KISS Alive II poster in my cousin’s room and being scared yet fascinated by the four characters, especially the blood-spewing Gene Simmons.

Whatever shock value they had in the early part of the decade was gone by the time I was listening to them in elementary school. They had their own comic book and starred in a terrible made-for-TV movie, KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park. After the disco-influenced Dynasty album (the poster of which I had hanging in my room, which led to my parents questioning my sanity), the band went into a down period before resurrecting itself in the mid-’80s.

I saw the band twice during the ’80s and grew out of them shortly thereafter. But the second my wife bought a Groupon for a round at the KISS by Monster Mini Golf experience, I was ready to Rock N Roll All Nite (and Party Every Day). We joined my brother’s family during the Thanksgiving week for a trip through our past as we introduced the kids to KISS’ music through the miniature golf course, which is a sentence I never thought I’d ever write.

It was an absolute blast. While the kids enjoyed playing glow-in-the-dark golf, I was loving all of the details on the course, highlighted by the ongoing KISS music blared throughout the place. Every hole had some kind of KISS or rock music theme to it, from maneuvering around Peter Criss’ drums to putting right through Ace Frehley’s Les Paul. There was even an animatronic KISS band at the center of the room that would occasionally come to life.

Of course, the only way to end a KISS round of golf was at the 18th hole’s tongue ramp into the Gene Simmons face (shown above).

Day 330: Thankful

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

While we didn’t do the traditional Thanksgiving this year (instead, we spent a few days in Las Vegas), I couldn’t be more thankful for my family.

Food, laughs, more food, and more laughs: these always happen when we’re together, no matter where we are.

Day 329: Tacos El Gordo

Tacos El Gordo. Perfect taco al pastor.

Tacos El Gordo. Perfect taco al pastor.

One of my favorite places to eat in Las Vegas is Tacos El Gordo. There are a few locations in town and each is an unassuming taco shop, always busy and consistently serving mouth-watering tacos.

It’s all about the al pastor here, the marinated pork that’s carved off a rotating spit. I always eat a few tacos whenever I’m in town and they’ve never let me down. I think I have a Pavlovian response now: the second I enter the city limits I crave that al pastor, which is some of the best I’ve had north of the border.

Pro tip: ask for pina (pineapple) while they’re making your taco al pastor.

Day 328: Neon Museum

The Neon Museum in Las Vegas.

The Neon Museum in Las Vegas.

I crossed off one of the items on my Bucket List: visiting the Neon Museum in Las Vegas. Ever since I’d heard of its existence I’ve wanted to see all of the old neon signs up close and personal in their final resting place.

The last time I was in town I tried to get a same-day reservation and learned that it frequently sold out. This time I made a reservation weeks ahead of time and had no problem.

My wife and I loved the hour-long tour. Las Vegas has a lot of colorful history and our tour guide did a fine job covering it as it related to the signs we saw. From the segregation in the 1950s to the family-friendly 1990s, the neon Vegas signs were products of their times.

We heard stories about Bugsy Siegel, Howard Hughes, and the Rat Pack in addition to the creators of the signs themselves, including Betty Willis, the woman responsible for the iconic Welcome to Las Vegas Sign.

It was a fun, informative tour and the hour flew by. I wish we could’ve had a few more minutes to take even more photos, but another group had already begun its tour. We were okay with that, though, since it gave us an excuse to do the night-time tour (with a few of the signs restored to their former glory) one day.

Day 327: Force Runs Strong

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Regular readers know how fired up I am about Episode VII and I thought this was pretty funny. I was hanging out with my nephew and I played the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer on Youtube.

Nephew: Not again!

Me: You’ve seen it already?

Nephew: That’s all daddy watches!

Me (laughing): The Force is strong in our family.

Day 326: International Games Day @ Your Library

King of Tokyo.

King of Tokyo.

Yesterday was International Games Day @ Your Library, celebrated at libraries everywhere. Our local library’s event was from 2-4pm and my wife and I arrived about 15 minutes late, only to find things being packed up. Our host said nobody had shown up, so she was happy to get the games back out on the table to game with us.

The three of us started with King of Tokyo, which was an absolute blast. My wife and I had never played before, but it only took a few turns before we got the hang of it. A few minutes later, a lady and her 14-year-old son arrived and we added them to the mix. We enjoyed a lot of laughs as we each took turns attacking each other.

We ended the event with a few quick games of  Wits and Wagers (Party edition) and Timeline: Inventions. My only complaint about the event? We didn’t have enough time to play all of the other great games available.

Day 325: Tea Time

Tea time has never looked so scientific.

Tea time has never looked so scientific.

There’s a new coffeehouse in our neighborhood that serves an outstanding white peach jasmine tea.  My wife and I love the modern, hip space and we really enjoy how the tea is served. It feels so scientific: steep for four minutes, then turn the valve to release the heavenly drink into the small pitcher.

Best of all, the wi-fi signal was strong and steady, which allowed me to watch FC Barcelona shut out Real Madrid.

Not a bad way to start my Saturday.

Day 324: Less Than A Month

We’re less than a month away from the opening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We’ve scoured the Internet for any kind of Star Wars news. We’ve seen two teasers, a behind-the-scenes short, trailers for various parts of the world, and now TV spots. We’ve had merchandise shoved down our throats on Force Friday.

I’m not sure why, but I’m not tired of any of it.

In fact, things are just getting better. Sure, I probably don’t need another meme featuring that lightsaber, but the spoof above makes it worth wading through the mediocre stuff.