"Long before Kobe Bryant has the ball in his hands in an end-game situation with the chance to make the winning shot -- he has seven of them this season -- there's a checklist of pregame rituals he needs to complete before the game even begins.
"Bryant needs a foot massage as he lies down in a muddled state of intense semi consciousness as the game approaches. He needs to lace up a fresh pair of his signature sneakers. He needs to puff rosin in the direction of the familiar faces of the broadcast team and statistics crew sitting courtside. He needs to dig his toes into the court, the rubber soles of his kicks catching the hardwood so he can stretch his legs out through a spastic circling of his knees that looks kind of like a young Forrest Gump imitating Elvis dancing to "Hound Dog."
"And he needs to hug a guy.
"The guy is Josh Powell."