ORLANDO, Fla. – Five cameras circled an empty chair for 45 minutes.
This, by the way, was the same chair occupied by Dwight Howard during his 45-minute rap session. The Orlando Magic center faced innumerable questions about his future – including one from a child who wanted to know where he would be playing next season.
But time ticked away on Bryant, with reporters wondering if they'd ever get to ask about his game, about Pau Gasol or about whether he's back with Vanessa.
There was the expected grumbling and grousing. "My back hurts," one reporter said. "He makes more in 1/10th of a second of a game than I do in a year."
One member of the foreign press seemed shocked that Kobe would not show up, even though it's been done by the likes of Michael Jordan. These guys can afford to pay the fine for missing a media session.
Time slowly ran out. The other Western Conference All-Stars answered every question, serious and silly. Kobe's chair was still empty in front of the cameras – the most scrutinized vacant seat since Simon Cowell left "American Idol."
Then, with literally one minute to go – Kobe always makes it interesting with a minute to go – NBA communications rep Tim Frank announced that Kobe was "ill" and wouldn't make the session.
Jokes and sighs ensued. We can only hope the Lakers superstar – and the reporter with the bad back – feel better by Sunday.
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