But it was the rookie, some kid named Kobe Bryant, who burst onto the scene almost immediately. The first time he was name-checked on a record was on The Alkaholik’s 1997 song “Hip-Hop Drunkies”, when Tash rapped:
I’m def-da-fyin, you rappin like my client
Tryin to scrape me for the style that slam harder than Kobe Bryant
BE QUIET! This is Likwidation from the West
Motherf*ck ya boozy show, I got my own special guest”
It didn’t take long before Kobe started appearing on television. There was the time he played high school basketball star Terry Hightower on his prom date Brandy’s show Moesha:
And the time he played himself on Arli$$:
How about his little cameo in the Destiny’s Child video for “Bug A Boo”?:
As you’ll see in Pt. III, this wasn’t Kobe’s only association with Destiny’s Child. Before the turn of the century, Kobe would also appear as himself on shows like Sister, Sister, alongside Del Harris and fellow rookie Derek Fisher on LL Cool J’s sitcom In The House, and on something called Electric Playground.
There were also commercials, like this one for Spalding’s new Infusion ball:
Not to be outdone by Shaq, Kobe embarked on a career in music as well. He first appeared on the 1998 remix to Brian McKnight’s “Hold Me”:
Then in 1999, he released his first single “K.O.B.E.” featuring Tyra Banks, that only left us wondering which was worse, Kobe rapping or Tyra singing?:
You can’t mention pop culture and the Lakers in the 90s and leave Rick Fox out of the conversation. Fox joined the Lakers in 1997 and found a way to balance his basketball and acting careers simultaneously. Since retiring from the NBA in 2004, Fox has done a number of projects. But he’ll probably be remembered best for his portrayal of Jackson Vahue, an NBA player-turned-prison inmate on the HBO series Oz; a role Fox played from 1997-2003:
But it wasn’t as if the Showtime Lakers had been forgotten. In 1997, the first bar of EPMD’s “Never Seen Before” had Erick Sermon rapping:
They go ohh and ahh when I jump in my car
People treat me like Kareem-Abdul Jabbar”
Also in 1997, James Worthy appeared on an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond. And how could we forget about Magic Johnson’s ill-fated attempt at hosting a late night talk show, The Magic Hour, in 1998?:
Kurt Rambis was getting roles as an actor on TV shows like The Sentinel, Malcolm & Eddie, Roc, 7th Heaven, and The Commish. A.C. Green had a part in Space Jam also.
The 21st Century would bring a lot more attention to the Lakers. Three consecutive championships and the popularization of the Internet would help. Stay tuned for Pt. III.