The joy and excitement that comes with the calendar turning to a new year has already gone by the wayside — particularly in Southern California — as 2020 has seen the tragic passing of Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Less than one month into 2020, the entire world mourned the loss of Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other passengers, after a helicopter that was transporting them to the Mamba Sports Academy crashed into a hillside on a foggy morning.
Bryant’s death sent shockwaves throughout Los Angeles and collective NBA community. Several current and former players, along with other luminaries, regularly shared memorable moments and conversations they had with the five-time champion.
And now with much of the United States in quarantine under some variation of safer-at-home orders to combat the coronavirus pandemic, conversations involving Bryant have again become commonplace.
One of which occurred during a reunion between some members from the cast of HBO’s “Entourage” for Cameo Cares, a fundraising initiative. With Constance Zimmer (“Dana Gordon”) serving as host, the hour-long chat featured Emmanuelle Chriqui (“Sloan McQuewick”), Jeremy Piven (“Ari Gold”) and Perrey Reeves (“Mrs. Ari Gold”).
Their discussion at one point touched on favorite guest appearances on the show. Although the footage was never included on any episode during the eight seasons of “Entourage,” Piven detailed an instance when Bryant unknowingly left a lasting impression:
“One cameo that was never seen was Kobe Bryant. God rest his soul. As you guys know, we filmed a lot at Staples (Center). We were there and I saw Kobe warming up so I went over to him and he’s always so present and gracious. The camera came over, Kobe was just warming up, taking threes, and I just went into character and told him that I want to represent him.
“That I think he’s incredibly charismatic and that he can do really great work and be really prolific in the film world. And he was just taking threes, just saying like, ‘Nah, man. I don’t have what Denzel has. I just don’t have it. It’s just not in me.’
“And as he’s talking, he’s so charismatic and fascinating and sinking threes without missing during the entire conversation. What’s so funny is people don’t realize that’s what acting is. You have an action, or an interrupted action, and his action was sinking threes and just speaking to me. And just speaking to me as himself, he was so charismatic. It was fascinating.
“We ended up not using it, but that was my favorite cameo that never made it (into the series). God bless him. He was a force.”
Piven’s account isn’t the first interaction between Bryant and the hit show. Jerry Ferrara (“Turtle”) and Kevin Connolly (“Eric Murphy”) recently shared details of a time when they bet the Lakers icon on his attempts at left-handed, one-legged shots hours before tipoff.
That Bryant would so effortlessly have been part of a scene that Piven believed was suitable for air isn’t much of a surprise. He transitioned seamlessly into retirement, memorably winning an Oscar Award for his “Dear Basketball” short film.