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Thursday, January 1, 2009

Police say diver faked his death in Laguna Beach

John Sung Park, who went missing in Laguna Beach in September is believed to have faked his own death to evade felony charges, police said today.

By Susannah Rosenblatt

A diver who went missing in Laguna Beach last fall is believed to have faked his own death to evade felony charges, police said Tuesday.

John Sung Park, 29, of Buena Park allegedly disappeared the evening of Sept. 11 while diving and spearfishing with two male friends, said Laguna Beach Police Sgt. Jason Kravetz. The friends reported Park missing, saying they had become separated in the water.

That triggered a massive 24-hour search effort by several agencies, including the Orange County Harbor Patrol and the U.S. Coast Guard, with additional rescue teams searching for days. The search cost an estimated $50,000.

Several incidents before and after the disappearance led Laguna Beach police to believe Park is still alive.

Before reporting Park missing, his diving companions returned to their car and changed out of their wetsuits.

The day before Park disappeared, he sold his black 1994 Mercedes Benz C220 to a woman in Tarzana.

Four days after he vanished, Park was scheduled to appear at a sentencing hearing on felony charges brought by La Palma police for drug possession, forgery, burglary and receiving stolen property. Park had pleaded guilty to the charges. Police issued a $50,000 warrant for his arrest. Park had an additional narcotics arrest warrant out in the Lakewood area, Kravetz said.

On Sept. 24, nearly two weeks after the disappearance, Park is believed to have returned to the Tarzana home of the woman who bought his Mercedes to take the car back, eventually hitting the woman's 22-year-old daughter with the vehicle. Los Angeles police issued a $95,000 warrant for Park's arrest.

The warrants, the court date, the Tarzana incident and the lack of evidence washing ashore in Laguna Beach led police to believe Park is alive, Kravetz said.

Park could face additional charges for causing a false emergency report. Police have talked again to the friends who reported him missing, and they continue to say that Park vanished beneath the waves. The two men could face possible charges, Kravetz said, but for now authorities consider them witnesses.

Police believe Park could still be in the Los Angeles or north Orange County area, where he has many ties, Kravetz said. His family said they have not heard from him.

He is 5 feet, 11 inches tall, 170 pounds with black hair and brown eyes; the Mercedes license plate number is 5ZUA733.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call Laguna Beach Police Det. Bill Cindel at (949) 497-0373.

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Gender Barrier Persists At Vancouver Olympics

by Howard Berkes

Lindsey Van
Courtesy of Scott Sine

Lindsey Van, 24, has been ski jumping since age 7 and now ranks among the world's best. She won't be able to jump at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver because Olympic ski jumping is closed to women.

Lindsey Van Competing On The K90 Hill In Whistler, British Columbia, Earlier This Year.
Courtesy of Seapearl Productions

Official Statements

Written statement provided to NPR by the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games on Dec. 1, 2008:

"This is a matter that is currently before the courts and understandably we can provide no new comment.

As we have stated in the past, in advance of the IOC's decision (Dec. 2006) not to include women's ski jumping for 2010, we supported the inclusion of women's ski jumping and communicated to the IOC that if they elected to add the event at that time, we would and could support it from a logistical and operational standpoint. We recognize that efforts are continuing by some to raise the profile and awareness of the issue, however, neither the facts nor our position have changed — it is not our decision to make. The final decision lies with the IOC, and we respect and accept the IOC's decision regarding women's ski jumping.

We encourage the women ski jumpers to focus their efforts on 2014 and we look forward to continuing to host them at Whistler Olympic Park for training."

— Cathy Priestner Allinger, EVP, Sport and Games Operations

Excerpts from a written statement provided to NPR by the International Olympic Committee on Nov. 19, 2008:

With too few athletes competing in this event, and no World Championships until one year before the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games, Women's Ski Jumping does not reach the necessary technical criteria and as such does not yet warrant a place alongside other Olympic events. With the technical merit of the event unchanged, the decision taken in November 2006 stands. ...

The IOC would like to stress again the decision not to include Women's Ski Jumping has been taken purely on technical merit. Any reference to the fact that this is a matter about gender equality is totally inappropriate and misleading.

— Emmanuelle Moreau, Media Relations Manager, International Olympic Committee

All Things Considered, December 29, 2008 · No man or woman has flown farther than American Lindsey Van off the K90 ski jump built for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Van holds the distance record at the K90 hill in Whistler, British Columbia.

But Van and other women contend they are barred from the 2010 games simply because they're women.

Ski jumping is the last Winter Olympics sport closed to women. So Van and nine other women from six countries are suing to get into the 2010 games. They argue that the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games is violating the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by staging ski jumping competition that excludes women.

"[It's] just pretty painful to watch [men] I grew up training with be able to have that opportunity and me sit there knowing that I don't even have that opportunity because I'm not a male," says Van, of Park City, Utah, who has been ski jumping since she was 7. "It's depressing to tell young girls that you don't have the same opportunities just because they're girls."

The Technical Mark

"If the men are going to jump the women have to jump. And if the women aren't going to jump then the men can't either," says DeeDee Corradini, who served as the mayor of Salt Lake City during its bid for the 2002 Winter Olympics and is president of Women's Ski Jumping USA.

Corradini describes the legal reasoning behind the ski jumpers' lawsuit, which is now before the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

"VANOC is a quasi-governmental entity. If you look at the composition of their board [and] if you look at who's funding all of the venues in the Olympic Games, it's the federal and the provincial and local governments," Corradini contends. "And therefore, under Canadian law, [VANOC] is subject to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which prohibits discrimination."

VANOC declined interview requests for this story, but its officials have blamed the International Olympic Committee, which voted two years ago to keep women out of the Vancouver ski jumping competition.

"We have, obviously, put the IOC in a position that they could, if they'd made a decision to put this on the program, we would have attempted to accommodate it," said VANOC CEO John Furlong in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in May. "But the frustration is it's not our area of jurisdiction at all."

That is not a credible argument to Margot Young, a professor of law at the University of British Columbia.

"The games have to be run according to Canadian law when they're on Canadian territory," Young asserts. "I don't think VANOC can say 'Well, the International Olympic Committee made us treat women unequally.' So, I think the IOC and what it believes is essentially irrelevant if the event's being held in Canada."

The International Olympic Committee did not respond to interview requests for this story. But IOC President Jacques Rogge spoke to the CBC during a visit to Vancouver in May.

"To become an Olympic sport, a sport must be widely practiced around the world, universal, and have a big appeal," Rogge explained. "This is not the case for women's ski jumping. So there is no discrimination whatsoever. They did not pass the technical mark. That will change in the future. We have no doubt about that. But today they're not ready for it."

Corradini says Rogge and other IOC members are grossly misinformed. She says more than 80 women from 14 countries were competing at the elite ski jumping level when the IOC's executive board voted in 2006 to keep women's ski jumping off the 2010 schedule.

"If you look at the facts of ski jumping versus other sports that we should be compared to, which are luge, skeleton, bobsleigh and ski cross, in particular, we have more women and more nations competing at the elite level than any of those sports did when they were admitted," Corradini adds.

'They're Not Good Enough'

The IOC's rejection angers Anita DeFrantz, one of the few women on the IOC and chairwoman of the committee's Women and Sports Commission. She's an African-American and former Olympian herself who has tried to open more Olympic sports to women. And she doesn't understand why her fellow IOC members won't include women in the Olympic ski jumping competition.

"The words I heard were, 'They're not good enough,' " DeFrantz recalls. "I've heard that before. I understand discrimination very well. And this is a nearly textbook case of discrimination."

Some believe the IOC chose the new Olympic sport of ski cross for the 2010 games, and passed over women's ski jumping, because ski cross will attract younger television viewers enticed by so-called extreme sports. Television is the biggest generator of revenue for the Olympics, and young people immersed in extreme sports are coveted by television sponsors and Olympic organizers.

Ski jumpers consider their sport one of the original extreme sports. And it's long been part of the Olympics. Men have been jumping in the games since the first Winter Olympics at Chamonix-Mont Blanc in 1924.

DeFrantz notes that some women used to jump disguised as men, and some have dominated the sport, sometimes jumping farther than men. In fact, American women do so well in international competition that the U.S. Ski Jumping Team does not include any men.

None of that may matter to the judge at the Supreme Court of British Columbia, who will hear arguments in the lawsuit in April. The case will come down to interpretations of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and whether it applies to VANOC and the 2010 Olympics, says law professor Margot Young.

"When it comes to organizations like VANOC, it's just not clear," Young says, despite government funding, government control and the staging of the Olympics as government policy. "The case law is contradictory and unpredictable. … It's not a slam-dunk. It's a complex argument. … I wouldn't bet on the result myself."

DeFrantz is usually reserved when she speaks of the IOC, where she has represented the United States since 1986. "It makes me feel embarrassed that our organization, which is built on mutual respect and fair play, is doing this to a group of women," DeFrantz admits. "It's just wrong."

Ski jumper Van is hoping the IOC or the Supreme Court of British Columbia will still open the 2010 competition to women, so she can fly into history as one of the first women to break the final gender barrier in the Winter Olympics. Van is 24 now, and 2010 is her last chance at the Olympics.

"I grew up expecting to be in [the] '98 [Olympics]," Van recalls. "And then 2002. And then 2006. So, the expectation's always been there. The dream's always been there. But there's no reality to that dream at this point."

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Pennington wins second comeback award

NEW YORK -- Chad Pennington has mastered NFL quarterbacking. And personal comebacks.

Chad Pennington

Al Bello/Getty Images

Chad Pennington put being released by the Jets behind him and led the Dolphins to the AFC East title.

For the second time in three years, Pennington is The Associated Press 2008 NFL Comeback Player of the Year. The Miami Dolphins star is the first player in the 11 seasons of the award to win it twice. "This time last year, I'm getting ready to watch the ball drop in Times Square. No playoffs, no starting job, no anything," Pennington said Wednesday, reflecting on the end of his 2007 season with the New York Jets. "Now here we are playing in a wild-card playoff game with a team that was 1-15 the year before," he added. "We were able to move the dash over one and be 11-5, so it's pretty special." As special as the way Pennington turned around his fortunes. This time, Pennington was coming back from being benched in New York last season, then discarded this summer when the Jets acquired Brett Favre. Two years ago, Pennington returned from two rotator cuff operations in eight months in 2005 and led the Jets to the playoffs to grab comeback honors. What's his secret? "Get hurt the following year and then come back," he said, laughing. "It's a reflection upon this organization and upon my teammates. This could have easily been an awkward situation with the new guy coming in the day of the first preseason game. It could have been a situation where there could have been sides chosen. These guys in this locker room wanted no part of that. They just wanted whoever to come in and help win. "It has been a blessing. I've been blessed to have good teammates and good coaches and I'm real thankful." The Dolphins needed to lean on Pennington as a leader as much as a passer. They rallied around his work ethic, his preparation and his cool demeanor in the toughest circumstances, and it resulted in an AFC East championship, Miami's first since 2000. "One of the things Chad has been tremendous with is he has been able to take the message you send every day to the team," said coach Tony Sparano, a prime contender for AP Coach of the Year. "From my standpoint, it's almost like you have another coach in the locker room all the time. To have a guy like him be a little bit of the torch carrier with your message to the team is very important. "It was very special for the entire organization for Chad to be able to get that award."

Miami Dolphins New York Jets Video

Watch highlights from the Miami Dolphins' 24-17 win over the New York Jets.

Pennington received 19 of 50 votes from a nationwide panel of sports writers and broadcasters who cover the league. That was 13 more than quarterbacks Kerry Collins of Tennessee and Jake Delhomme of Carolina. Another quarterback, Arizona's Kurt Warner, received four votes, as did his teammate, wide receiver Anquan Boldin. So did Tampa Bay wideout Antonio Bryant. Two of Pennington's teammates also received votes: linebacker Joey Porter (three) and running back Ronnie Brown (one). Also with one vote were San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers, Pittsburgh safety Ryan Clark and Baltimore tackle Willie Anderson. Porter was among Pennington's biggest supporters for the award. "He was our savior," Porter said. "He changed this whole team. He's not the one that's going to brag about it. He's just an old, humble country boy. So I'm going to brag for him."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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Sources: Cowher didn't want to coach Favre

Brett Favre, AP
There will be no Cowher Power for the Jets. Bill Cowher informed the team last night he is not interested in their head-coaching job, and it could be because he doesn't want to coach Brett Favre. The former Steeler coach was the clear-cut favorite to replace Eric Mangini among Jets fans, and the team's ownership. Now, Woody Johnson must move on to Plan B. Talks between the Jets and Cowher never advanced past the preliminary stage. Sources close to Cowher said he did not want to have Favre as his quarterback, and that he also wanted to bring in people he was familiar with to handle personnel. A source familiar with Cowher's thinking said before last night's decision came down that the former Steeler boss would have to receive assurances from the Jets that the 39-year-old Favre no longer was in the picture before agreeing to take control.

ESPN to air 2010 Pro Bowl

The Pro Bowl will be played one week before the Super Bowl in 2010 and both games will be staged in Dolphin Stadium. The Pro Bowl will be televised on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET on Jan. 31, 2010.

"We are looking at alternatives to strengthen the Pro Bowl," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement Tuesday. "We will evaluate this concept after the 2010 Pro Bowl."

It's not a new notion to have the game moved up to take place between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl. The NFL has discussed it multiple times in recent years, and Goodell told The Associated Press last month that having the game precede the Super Bowl would avoid a "somewhat anticlimactic" ending to the season.

"ESPN presents year-round coverage of the NFL and will work together with the league to promote the 2010 Pro Bowl as one of the kickoff events to Super Bowl XLIV week in South Florida," John Wildhack, ESPN executive vice president, program acquisitions and strategy, said in a statement Tuesday.

The Pro Bowl has been held in Honolulu since 1980, and it's probable that the game will return to Hawaii after 2010, although not on the permanent basis as has been the case over the past three decades. Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle said she was hopeful a deal could be struck in time for the 2011 game to return to Honolulu, and the city's mayor, Mufi Hannemann, told The Associated Press that he also is optimistic for eventual Pro Bowls.

"It's not that this comes as a surprise," Hannemann said. "The NFL has made it known for some time now that they were looking for some sort of rotational basis. We just need to get a new agreement with the NFL, whether it's every year or every two years or every three years. The ball's in our court to get that done."

It won't be South Florida's first Pro Bowl: the 1975 game took place in Miami's Orange Bowl, during a period when the site rotated annually.

It is anticipated that the league's plan is for players on the AFC and NFC championship squads not to take part in the Pro Bowl.

Miami was awarded the 2010 Super Bowl three years ago, a record 10th time the game will come to the Dolphins' home city. The notion of adding the Pro Bowl to the lineup in South Florida was first discussed several months ago. It's not clear when the final decision was made to move the game.

Hawaii tourism officials have lobbied in recent months to extend the game's current contract, which expires after this season's Pro Bowl, pointing to the fact that it's been sold out every year since moving to Honolulu and generates about $30.5 million in visitor spending and tax revenues.

Earlier this year, Hawaii's state government released $11 million for lighting and roofing improvements at Aloha Stadium, part of ongoing upgrades designed to refurbish and modernize the aging stadium. State officials have also considered demolishing the facility and building a new stadium.

Losing the Pro Bowl, combined with slowdowns in tourism because of the sluggish economy, is a double-dose of bad news for Honolulu, which estimates that 25,000 people came from out-of-state for Pro Bowls.

"It's not a shock because in talking with the NFL last year and this year, you realize the potential was there that it wouldn't stay in Honolulu forever and ever," Hannemann said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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Broncos fire Shanahan after 14 seasons as head coach

Mike Shanahan won only one playoff game since winning back-to-back Super Bowls in 1998 and 1999.

DENVER (AP) -- He was known as a genius, a mastermind and, yes, a Super Bowl champion. Shockingly, though, Mike Shanahan has a new title: Unemployed coach.

Shanahan became the latest and most stunning victim of the NFL coaching purge, fired Tuesday by the Denver Broncos after a late-season collapse knocked the team out of the playoffs for the third straight year.

Shanahan became the fourth coach to be fired this week, joining Eric Mangini, Rod Marinelli and Romeo Crennel, after going 24-24 over the last three seasons. That included three straight losses this year that turned a three-game division lead to an 8-8 record.

"After giving this careful consideration, I have concluded that a change in our football operations is in the best interests of the Denver Broncos," owner Pat Bowlen said.

Bowlen had been steadfastly loyal to Shanahan, rewarding the coach who brought the long-awaited Super Bowl title to Denver with what seemed like carte blanche for life.

But Denver remained stuck on only one postseason victory since John Elway retired in 1999 following back-to-back championships. Shanahan finishes at 146-91 over 14 seasons in Denver, including playoffs; his final game was an unseemly 52-21 loss to San Diego with the division title on the line.

"I'm very shocked, extremely shocked," said rookie Spencer Larsen, who played fullback and linebacker this year. "I don't think any of us saw this coming."

Quarterback Jay Cutler certainly didn't.

"I was talking to Mike yesterday about personnel moves," he said in an interview on KCNC-TV in Denver. "I'm as shocked as anybody else. I think it's the wrong move."

For any other coach, on any other team, this kind of thing wouldn't have come as such a surprise, considering the season that just ended.

It included a historic collapse with Denver becoming the first team since divisional play started in 1967 to blow a three-game lead with three games left.

The Broncos' defense gave up 448 points, third worst in the NFL, including 112 during the three-game collapse at the end. It was ranked 29th in yards allowed and tied for last in the NFL with a minus-17 turnover margin.

Who might be able to turn it around?

Because Shanahan's job had seemed so secure, there hasn't been much speculation. Now, all the usual suspects will surely surface, both on the coaching and personnel sides: Bill Cowher, Scott Pioli, Jim Fassel. Shanahan's best assistant over the years, Gary Kubiak, is under contract with the Texans.

"I don't know if necessarily they'll find a better football coach," said linebacker Bill Romanowski, a key player on the Super Bowl teams. "Mike is an outstanding football coach, one of the better coaches I had, if not the best. But players start to get tired of the same routines, the same kind of play calling. A new fresh coat of paint sometimes does a whole lot of good."

Messages left on Elway's cell phone by The Associated Press were not immediately returned.

Bowlen and Shanahan were scheduled to hold news conferences Wednesday. Shanahan had three years left on his contract, worth about $20 million.

It will be interesting to see if Bowlen wants a change in the way the organization is run. Over the past several years, the most successful teams have moved away from the once-popular structure of having a coach-slash-GM in charge of everything.

In Denver, Shanahan ran everything and as things went downhill, he relieved defensive coordinators -- Greg Robinson, Ray Rhodes, Larry Coyer and Jim Bates -- in almost revolving-door fashion.

This year, as the defense floundered, it became obvious it wasn't just a coaching problem. It was an issue of talent on the field, and in Denver, the buck stopped with Shanahan.

He focused on defense in 2007, using two of his four picks for defensive linemen Jarvis Moss and Tim Crowder, neither of whom have been much of a factor. Also of late, he wasted a third-round pick on Maurice Clarett (2005), spent millions on running back bust Travis Henry (2007), hardly got anything from Boss Bailey, Niko Koutouvides and Dewayne Robertson (2008).

Yet even when the talent wasn't there, he usually fielded a competitive team. Decades of solid sellouts and the full confidence of his owner made him almost impervious to criticism. Even after blowout losses, he was wont to acknowledge, at least publicly, deficiencies in his coaching or management style.

He was known -- first affectionately, then more derisively -- as "The Mastermind" during his tenure with the Broncos. And despite his poor finish in Denver, Shanahan shouldn't have much trouble getting another job if he's interested -- and willing to part with the 35,000-square-foot house he's building in a fancy part of Denver.

He earned the reputation honestly, returning to lead the Broncos a few years after a short, unsuccessful stint with the Oakland Raiders, where he was fired by Al Davis in a contentious parting that still isn't fully resolved. (Shanahan claims he's owed $250,000).

Shanahan became a coaching star as a coordinator and confidant of Elway's while the Broncos were being coached by Dan Reeves. But Reeves ended up firing Shanahan, accusing him of insubordination for supposedly conspiring with Elway to hatch game plans behind the head coach's back.

That made for a great subplot for the Super Bowl 10 years ago, when Denver met Reeves and the Falcons, for what turned out to be the last great moment for a franchise that Shanahan took to the top.

Denver's two Super Bowl victories came behind the running of Terrell Davis and the brilliance of Elway, but Shanahan pulled the strings and finally helped deliver the title to a city that had been through four painful Super Bowl losses, three with Elway at the helm.

Shanahan was regarded as a coaching genius when it came to creating mismatches on the field, confusing defenses by using different personnel groupings to run the same set of plays, series after series and game after game.

Davis. Olandis Gary. Reuben Droughns. Clinton Portis. Tatum Bell. They all ran for 1,000 yards for the Broncos and the basic thought was that anyone could do it in Shanahan's offense.

But after Elway retired, it was never quite the same.

His replacement, Brian Griese, never panned out. Jake Plummer got the Broncos to the AFC title game in 2005, but Denver was blown out by Pittsburgh. Shanahan drafted Cutler the next year -- an indication he was blowing up a team that had come so close a year before.

Cutler, along with receivers Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal, make up the core of what could be a very promising offense in years to come. But the defense Shanahan assembled was wretched -- allowing more than 400 points over the past two seasons -- and the Broncos hardly looked like contenders.

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Chargers owner Spanos has dementia

STOCKTON, Calif. -- Billionaire developer and San Diego Chargers owner Alex Spanos has announced in a letter that he suffers from dementia.

The 85-year-old Stockton resident was in the owner's box for the Chargers' division-clinching win over the Denver Broncos on Sunday, but family members wanted to tell the public that his infrequent appearances lately have been because of his declining health.

Spanos wrote in a letter published in the San Diego Union Tribune that his memory is fading, but that physically he feels strong.

Spanos was one of the largest contributors to the 2004 campaign of George W. Bush, who then appointed him to the Kennedy Center Board. Spanos bought an interest in the Chargers in 1980 and acquired the team outright in 1984.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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Barkley: All I Really Wanted Was Oral Sex

by TMZ Staff

This may be the very best police report of 2008. When Charles Barkley was busted in Arizona early this morning for DUI, he told cops he ran a stop sign because he was in a hurry to get some oral sex.

According to the officer who wrote the report, "He told me that he ran the stop sign because he was in a hurry to pick up the girl I saw get in the passenger seat."

The officer continues: "He asked me to admit that she was 'hot.' He asked me, 'You want the truth?' When I told him I did he said, 'I was gonna drive around the corner and get a b**w job. He then explained that she had given him a 'b**w job' one week earlier and said it was the best one he had ever had in his life."

The report says when Barkley was taken to the station, he told one of the employees, "I'll tattoo my name on your ass" if he helped "get him out of the DUI." According to the report, "He laughed and then quickly corrected himself and said, 'I'll tattoo your name on my ass' and then laughed again."

The report also says officers "found a handgun in the vehicle" which was immediately impounded. The report doesn't say if the handgun was legal or not, and the only thing that we know for sure was loaded...

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Kobe Bryant is the Lakers' standout film student

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant, photographed on October 30, 2005, watches basketball clips en route to a game at Staples Center.

By Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner

There are few things more important to Kobe Bryant before a game than his portable DVD player.

It goes wherever he goes before tipoff. On the padded table in the trainer's room. On the floor for a pregame stretching routine. Perched in front of his locker.
The Lakers' 10-time All-Star stares at his 10-inch screen, watching basketball clips of the players he'll be guarding.

It is part of his longtime commitment to studying video, one of the foundations of a career still going strong in its 13th season.

The Lakers have had their stars over the last few decades -- Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West, Shaquille O'Neal -- but few have studied game video (or film, as it was called back in the day) more diligently than Bryant, who looks for the slightest advantage while sizing up an opponent.

"Hands down, he's the biggest video fiend we've ever had," said Chris Bodaken, the Lakers' director of video services. "I didn't know if it was possible to be more competitive than Magic was, but I think he might be. It carries over into his preparation, and this is part of that."

Bodaken, 40, began working in the Lakers' editing room in 1989 as an intern and is now one of two full-time staffers who use eight digital video recorders, five laptop computers and 18 DVD burners to record, edit and copy footage for Lakers coaches and players.

NBA teams are inundated with video, part of an effort to keep up with the competition in the digital age. The Lakers' video staff has been even busier this season because Bryant, 30, has dialed up his requests after winning his first NBA most-valuable-player award.

Bryant previously studied clips from entire games, watching them at his home or on the way to home games in his car (he is typically driven by one of his bodyguards). Now his pregame routine also includes clips of individual players he will guard.

Bodaken's co-worker, Patrick O'Keefe, 28, is in charge of compiling Bryant's video montages.

After conferring with Bryant, O'Keefe takes a little more than an hour to scroll through an opponent's last few games and find key plays from the players Bryant will guard, presenting him with eight to 12 minutes of edited footage.

The goal is for Bryant to pick up tendencies of rival players. Have they added any new moves? Have they been aggressively driving to the basket or have they been satisfied to drift from the hoop and settle for outside jump shots?

Before games, Bryant slips in custom-made earpieces with "KB" monograms on each side. Then he turns on his DVD player and tries to find ways to take away comfort zones from opponents.

For the Christmas Day game against Boston, he received 12 edited minutes of three Celtics starters: Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen. Less than 48 hours later, he received 11 minutes of three Golden State players: Stephen Jackson, Kelenna Azubuike and Marco Belinelli.

"It's a blueprint," said Bryant, an eight-time member of the NBA all-defensive team. "So if something goes down, it's not something you haven't seen before. Everybody's got tendencies. If he scores 40 on Monday, he's going to try to do it on Tuesday. You've got to take him out of his spots. That's the key."

Bryant has studied basketball footage since he was a 6-year-old in Italy, where his father, Joe "Jellybean" Bryant, played professionally after an eight-year NBA career.

Bryant's grandfather would send video tapes to Italy of NBA games, and Bryant would eagerly pop them into the bulky tape machines of the 1980s. NBA games were not televised in Europe, so Bryant depended on the boxes from his grandfather to be able to imitate U.S. professionals.

"When I saw a hot move, I could rewind it and go back and watch it and learn from it," Bryant said. "It started real early."

It continued at Lower Merion (Pa.) High, where Bryant played high school basketball after his family moved to Philadelphia. Bryant said his high school coach, Gregg Downer, was a "big believer" in breaking down video.

"He had everybody watching game film even back then when it wasn't as popular to do it," Bryant said. "He would scout out our opponents' games, videotape our opponents' games, and we would watch game tape of them."
Bryant graduated from high school in 1996 and played his first NBA game as an 18-year-old, where his film fascination continued.

He asked Lakers video coordinators for tapes on players from the late 1980s and early-to-mid 1990s, including revered Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan.
When the Lakers hired Phil Jackson in 1999, Bryant was tipped off that his new coach sometimes asked video coordinators to edit random on-screen words into video packages viewed by the entire team before practice. Jackson would then ask a particular player which word just flashed on the screen, the equivalent of a pop quiz for multi-millionaire athletes.

"I remember mentioning that to Kobe once and he just laughed," Bodaken said. "The concept of not watching something on film was so foreign to him."

The Lakers originally began using game footage to scout teams in the late 1960s, splicing together plays on 8-mm or 16-mm film, according to longtime Lakers official Bill Bertka. Sessions were short, perhaps only five or six minutes, and if the film projector broke, a common occurrence back then, "the players would go bananas," he said.

Bodaken and O'Keefe cull their videos from a vast menu of programming. The NBA provides a television package so the Lakers can download any game. The Lakers' video staff members will program games -- sometimes a week in advance -- on the team's video systems at Staples Center or the Lakers' El Segundo practice facility.

On Monday night, they recorded Denver vs. Atlanta, Orlando-Detroit, Chicago-New Jersey, Memphis-Minnesota, Phoenix-Oklahoma City, Washington-Houston, Philadelphia-Utah, and Toronto-Golden State.

Bodaken, who also scouts for the Lakers and spent one season as an assistant coach, boasts about the football conquests of his alma mater, USC. O'Keefe is a former student manager for the Indiana University men's basketball team.

Their work space at Staples Center is just large enough to accommodate two desks and three steel racks of recording equipment.

The room is next to Jackson's office, allowing for easy access if he has a particular video request.

When the Lakers are on the road, either O'Keefe or Bodaken travels with them.

When the Lakers are at home, the video staff typically arrives at the team's training facility before 7 a.m. Morning is crunch time because videos must be ready by the time practice starts at 10 a.m. Also, edited DVDs of upcoming opponents must be prepared for coaches so that future game plans can be formulated.

Game days are particularly long. Bodaken and O'Keefe stay at Staples Center until 11 p.m., awaiting word from coaches on what must be prepared for the next day.Before tipoff, the opponent's most recent game is always showing on a large TV in the locker room as players arrive 90 minutes before a game. Few of them watch it, preferring instead to shoot on the court or relax in an adjacent players' lounge.

Bryant, however, is often in the trainer's room watching his DVD player while his ankles are taped.

Says O'Keefe: "It's like a straight-A student who still goes to all the extra study sessions."

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