I recently received a great article from one of our KB24 members, fnmamba. He got an interview with John Mercado, another KB24 member that was lucky enough to meet Kobe and have him sign a pair of his Zoom V’s.
On March 15, 2010, Jon Mercado got a chance to do something that many of the fans on kobebryant.com can only dream about. He got the chance to meet Kobe Bryant, talk shoes and basketball with him, watch him practice, and wish him luck. Here is Jon’s afternoon with the Black Mamba.
Jon works for the oldest athletic club in the US called The Olympic Club. It’s located in downtown San Francisco, CA. Most NBA teams use that facility for practice while they are in town. He works in the basketball department there and helps train kids, run basketball camps, and run the AAU teams. While working at the gym, he always wears a signature Nike shoe, and that day he happened to be wearing his Kobe V All-stars.
As Jon was escorting Ron Artest into the gym, (he normally doesn’t talk to players because most of them are all business) Kobe noticed his quick strike limited shoes. The first thing he says is, “You must be a real one if you got those, (those) all stars are hard to get.” Jon then went into the story of how he had to get those shoes and how much work he had to do to purchase them. Before Kobe started to stretch out for a light practice, Jon then had a chance to talk to Kobe about what shoes he would be wearing that night.
Jon had a chance to watch the Lakers stretch out and loosen up while Coach Phil Jackson went over their game plan. They discussed what to do during the game and how to attack the Warriors if they decided to switch to a zone defense. They also discussed what they could expect to see from their opponents that night offensively for about 20 minutes. The team then separated into groups of four and practiced simple shooting competitions around the court.
Jon was in awe as the Lakers practiced and showed off their athleticism. Working for the Olympic Club allows him to watch a lot of NBA players up close and personally, and he is always impressed with the size and skill these professional players have in comparison to everyday players at the local gym. “Josh Powell, you wouldn’t think had crazy hops, he was touching the rim with his head,” Jon said. You know NBA players are tall but you don’t expect them to be so mobile as well. Mbenga and Pau were also standing on the baseline behind the basket and practice dunking from there. The practice ended with Kobe Bryant, Shannon Brown, Brian Shaw, and Jordan Farmar shooing half court shots.
After they finished practice, the players got ready to leave and were happy to sign a few autographs and take some photos. Kobe was nice enough to sign a pair of Kobe V inlines he had as they walked towards the bus. He was only expecting to get one shoe signed, but Kobe grabbed the other one and signed it as well. Kobe asked Jon if he had seen the Aston Martin Kobe V pack and then laughed when Jon said that he wanted them. Kobe said that they weren’t released, and he’ll really have to hunt for them if he wanted them. If he managed to get them, “he’d be a beast.” Jon replied that he’d try to get them and would show Kobe the next time he returns to there to practice. He wished Kobe luck as he entered the bus which Kobe replied “Thank you, my man.”
That was an experience that Jon had with Kobe and he was very impressed at how cordial Kobe is with fans. “I am all for him now because I know he was such a great guy to me, he didn’t have to be so nice, and he didn’t even had to say anything to me. One of the best to ever play the game of basketball actually acknowledged me and let me feel like I mattered to him. Players are usually nice, but Kobe was by far the nicest of anyone.
Written By: Frank Nguyen
The above photo: John is wearing a red shirt, and below are shoes that Kobe signed that day!