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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview with Roland Lazenby

Aired July 8, 2003 - 19:37   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: When you're a superstar pro athlete, like Kobe Bryant, one of the most valuable things you own is also the most fragile and irreplaceable, your image. Few have an image as squeaky clean as Bryant's. But few sports have as an image as pro basketball. The players, the parties, the groupies,the scandals. As prosecutors decide whether to charge, Bryant, with sexual assault we want to take a look at Bryant's life style and the NBA life style.
Roland Lazenby, wrote "Mad Game: The NBA Education of Kobe Bryant." He joins us now from Lynchburg, Virginia.

Roland, thanks for being with us.

Firstly of all, you've spent a lot of time with Kobe Bryant. You wrote about him.

Do you think who is capable of sexual assault?

ROLAND LAZENBY, AUTHOR: I certianly, would not think so. But again, I know nothing about the facts of this case. And I really can't make a judgment on that. But from what I've seen of his character, over the years of dealing with him, from what I've observed, that's the farthest thing from my mind.

COOPER: I mean, you have traveled with various teams on the road. The stories are sort of legendary of what happens on the road, the money, the tours, the women, people throwing themselves at these guys.

What is it look for some of these players on the road?

LAZENBY: Well, I think that it's like many other endeavors in society. The NBA is a place where people are paid a lot of money. They're young, they're athletic. They're media stars in many regards and there are groupies. In some regards, you get the same kind of to it of activity in your average state house around the legislature. There are political groupies just as there are sports groupies. The Los Angeles Lakers, being the glamour team of the NBA, have attracted their share of groupies over the years.

COOPER: What's interesting though about this Kobe Bryant story -- I'm not sure interesting is the right word, but he seemed, I mean, by all outward appearances, even from what you've written, seems to have sort of grown up seeing that, seeing and hearing those stories, hearing about "Magic" Johnson out there years ago, and sort of grown up in reaction to that.

LAZENBY: Yes, Anderson, Kobe was as was a 12, 13-year-old kid growing up in Europe, absolutely loved "Magic" Johnson. Followed everything he did. And Kobe was devastated in November of 1991, when "Magic" Johnson announced that he had tested HIV positive and was retiring from the NBA. Kobe spent the better part of a week, as he explained to me, absolutely mourning that situation, crying in his young mind, trying to figure out what we could do help "Magic."

When he came to the NBA, Kobe explained to me, the last thing he wanted to do was get caught up in that atmosphere. By all accounts, he's successfully avoided it.

COOPER: You even tell the story -- you were with him in a hallway when there were a number of very attractive young women, one of whom made a proposition to him. Tell us about it.

LAZENBY: Well, simply the kind of thing Kobe Bryant and many NBA stars can run into any night after an NBA game. Kobe was walking out of the locker room in Houston, down a hallway, saw a familiar face. With the familiar face, were two very attractive young women. Kobe, on his way to the team bus spoke to his acquaintance. Rolled out a brief bit of his charm and was headed on his way. Sensing that she had to close the deal in a hurry, one of the young women asked, "What's your hotel?"

Well, Kobe, over the years, because of his singular determination to be the greatest, to not have anything get in the way of his determination to be the best he could be, he had become very, very adroit at getting himself out of these types of situations. Again, he used a bit of his charm, excused himself, whatever. But, in fact, I was talking with Lakers assistant coach Tex Winter today and he said gosh, we worried about Kobe Being antisocial to the point, because all he really wanted to do was work on basketball. Kobe, to a person, for all the people I know, has never exhibited any signs of enjoying that.

COOPER: Been hearing a lot in the last couple days. And as we should point out, I know charges have been filed. We'll follow this closely.

Roland Lazenby, thank you, it's interesting.

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