An ESPN article published this past May recounted a strange story: Lakers GM Rob Pelinka bizarrely claimed that Kobe Bryant was inspired by the depiction of the Joker in The Dark Knight, sought out and enjoyed dinner with Heath Ledger (who was dead), and then channeled that inspiration to drop 61 points on the Knicks in February 2009. While it’s not at all difficult to envision Kobe diving into a villainous persona for personal gain, the glitch in this story was—just to reiterate—that Ledger had been dead for over a year.
As Bryant clarified in a recent appearance on Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles’s podcast, Pelinka had gotten the details twisted.
Kobe’s re-retelling starts at the 34-minute mark:
I had to find that space. I didn’t go out to dinner in New York. I stayed in my room. This is actually the story Rob told, that he got confused about, the Heath Ledger stuff. Because I stayed up watching Batman, and watching Heath Ledger. And then I went and started researching about Heath Ledger, and how he got into character and how he just became all-consuming. That inspired me to go into my Garden mode. When I go in there I don’t want to say hi to the gen—I don’t want say hi to these people—I don’t wanna talk to nobody. Everybody leave me alone.
Bryant went on to score 61 points, all without having to commune with the recently deceased. Maybe he should have revisited that Joker mentality after his youth basketball team placed fourth, asking the unsmiling players, “Why so serious?”