Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Take Dean Benson, the 47-year-old stage manager who sits in a folding chair near the Lakers’ bench, with often his main job to snag Bryant as he comes off the floor after a win for the post-game live TV interview.In his third season with the production, Benson was there at the Long Beach Pyramid when Bryant, after a workout for general manager Jerry West, sat down for one of his first local TV spots on Prime Ticket.“They’re telling me in my headset: ‘Take his hat off’,” said Benson. “I reach over, take it off, Kobe just looks up and smiles and rubs his head.”Shah, the Lakers’ lead game producer since 2003, was helping put together a preseasons special when Bryant arrived to join up with Shaquille O’Neal. For a show called “Showtime is Baq,” compiled during training camp in Hawaii, Shah said Lakers public relations VP John Black brought Bryant over, Bryant introduced himself, referred to him as “Mr. Shah,” shook his hand, said “Nice to meet you” and did an interview.“He was the kind of kid you’d want your daughter to go to the prom with,” said Shah, who grew up a Lakers fan in West L.A. and went to Cal State Northridge. “He already had a certain professionalism and knew how to deal with the media, which is something that’s very rare.”From there, Shah says he has been fascinated to watch Bryant work the media to his benefit.“The young guys today who are into social media to get their stuff out, that’s one thing. But Kobe knew how to talk to the media. He probably felt he had an ally with the home team broadcasters, which we are. He knew he could trust us. Over the years he’s been great to have on the telecasts because of the drama and excitement, but also for his access, his quotes, just everything about him.”Rusty Breslow, who crouches on the floor with a 20-pound camera on his right shoulder, has perhaps the unique perspective game in and out of Bryant’s career.Until recently, Breslow was at midcourt, opposite the scorer’s table. Lately he’s been moved to the baseline corner opposite the visiting bench. Making sure Bryant never tripped over him in the course of a game was always on Breslow’s mind.“I never wanted to be ‘that guy,’ and thank God it never happened,” he said, “but there would be times when Kobe would take a jump shot from so far out (near center court) and he’d fall back, and then make this wide turn as he ran the other way and I’d have to lift my legs and curl up and yell, ‘Kobe! No!’ to get his attention and let him know I’m there.”Doug Freeman, who directed Lakers games for years at FSW and continues do Angels and Clippers for the company, once told Breslow that he had the best camera spot for a basketball broadcast. Breslow’s job is to capture what’s called the “hero shot” – a reaction after a play, often used in a slo-mo replay.There are subtle things Breslow can capture, like Bryant winking at a fan in a courtside seat, or patting an opponent on the backside after torching him with a long shot.“Those things have been magical,” said Breslow. “He’s the kind of guy you have to watch all the time. Sometimes, I look away from the viewfinder and the lens and I catch myself just watching him. Then something happens and I go, ‘What am I doing?’”To a man, everyone on the crew remembers trying to maintain their role while also getting engulfed in the Sunday night game 10 years ago when Bryant went off for 81 points at Staples Center against Toronto.“I called someone on my cell, a normal regular seat-holder who wasn’t there, and said, ‘I think he’s going to get 60 tonight’,” said Breslow.Benson said he was talking back to Freeman in the production truck in the second half. Freeman would watch Bryant release a shot and shout, “No way!” Benson, who could see the trajectory from his seat, said he would reply: “Way!”Jerry Weinstein, who produced home games on FSW for four seasons and has directed games for TWCSN since its launch, never tires of talking about that career highlight.“As the producer, I had to be careful about doing replays because I was afraid we’d miss a crowd reaction or anything else live,” said Weinstein. “We had to let it play out, and figure out a graphic that would show his points – 65, 67, 69 – drop down out of the Fox box at the top of the screen.“It was electric in the truck, but not really crazy. We were all in the flow and trying to stay out of the way, let the action speak for itself.”The actions of Breslow, Benson and all the others who have been on this ride speak to the quality of work that viewers have seen of Bryant’s performances over the years.“I’ve been fortunate to shoot Magic (Johnson), and (Wayne) Gretzky, they’d come out of the locker room and you could see they were in the zone right away,” said Breslow, who traveled for many years with the team. “Kobe always had that.”As part of Bryant’s pregame ritual, he often fist-bumps those sitting at the scorer’s table. Benson has been part of that going back to the Lakers’ games at the Forum before the move to Staples Center in 1999.“I get my headset on and get in there for the bump,” said Benson, a graduate of Taft High in Woodland Hills. “I’m superstitious.”Now, there’s another layer added it.“We saw him for so many years in this ‘Mamba’ mode, wanting to tear the heart out of an opponent,” said Shah. “You’d even see him in the hallway and you’d step aside. But this year, he’s smiling, hugging guys .. I almost wish we got to see that kind of person earlier. But I’m not sure he would have been the same player.”Benson says it’s been interesting to see Bryant enter an arena with security guys in front of him, and a documentary camera crew behind him.“And he’s always wearing the best suit,” said Benson. “He looks like James Bond – and to me, he has been James Bond, always wanting to take the last shot.“I’m getting very melancholy these days, as we get down to four, then three more games left. I think about how fortunate I’ve been to see him play, the passage of time, back when we were both still kids and we both had more hair.“I’m spoiled. So many great interviews. There’s that lull of 10 to 20 seconds I’ll stand next to him, waiting for the live shot after a game. Just great memories.”Benson then touched his head, and his heart.“It’s all here, and here,” he said.More media notes, as well as the start of the annual review of 30 baseball books during the 30 days of April, are at www.insidesocal.com/tomhoffarthMEASURING MEDIA MOMENTUMWHAT SMOKES• TWC SportsNet has scheduled nearly some kind of Kobe Bryant special programing from now until the end of the season, involving updated interviews, greatest games, Top 10 lists and features with team photographer Andrew Bernstein. “Kobe has always been cooperative and working with us with so many demands on his time,” said Larry Meyers, the TWC Sports executive producer. “The personal experience has been nothing but positive.” Jared Stacy, the coordinating producer who has worked on the Lakers’ package since 2004, admits TWC SportsNet can do far more Bryant-related wrap-around shows as the stand-alone net for the Lakers. “We can’t take any of this time with him for granted,” said Stacy. “Sometimes you can get jaded and when you’re around it every day, but now is the time to celebrate all the good times and the championships and buzzer beaters. At the core we are all die-hard Lakers fans and these are dream jobs for us. The fans always come first.”WHAT CHOKES• You really didn’t expect the Dodgers’ SportsNet L.A. thing to be resolved by Opening Day 2016, did you? Then you aren’t disappointed. No matter what is leaked out as the “sweetest” deal TWC is trying use to lure AT&T/DirecTV into ending this stalemate that started long before the 2014 season — and you may hear reports trickling out still– it continues to feel as if it will take a monumental shift in philosophy (and ego) from competing dish and cable companies to snuggle up to any SNLA agreement that doesn’t involve them having to explain a jump in their customer’s monthly bills. The Dodgers’ opener Monday at 4 p.m. in San Diego has both ESPN (Dan Shulman, Aaron Boone, Jessica Mendoza and Buster Olney) and SNLA (Vin Scully says he’ll be there).Meanwhile, both ESPN2 (Karl Ravech, Dallas Braden, Tim Kurkjian and uster Olney) and FSW (Victor Rojas, Mark Gubicza) have the Angels’ opener against the visiting Chicago Cubs on Monday at 7 p.m. And, yes, Olney at both the games is the plan. Mark Shah and Antony Hurd are on the record claiming to have defeated the future Basketball Hall of Famer.“He was so competitive, but you could tell maybe it was the first time he had really played,” said Shah, the Time Warner Cable SportsNet producer on Lakers’ games. “He’d play again and again, trying to figure out how to get better. He wanted to master this thing. We knew he was always competitive, but he was also motivating everyone else. It was a side of him we didn’t always get to see.”“I have a picture of me playing against him,” said Hurd, the TWCSN audio booth veteran. “And I did beat him. Maybe you can’t print that.”Whether it’s a fortunate moment spent with Bryant in an elevator or restaurant on the road, or working during historic games played out in front of them, those who have found their careers behind the scenes on the Lakers’ TV crew parallel Bryant’s 20-year run start are sharing their memories more these days before it winds down to the April 13 regular-season finale. Several did, in fact, prior to Wednesday’s Lakers-Miami Heat game.The TWC SportsNet partnership with the Lakers started in 2012, but well before that, there has been a core of producers, directors, cameramen and other production associates, going back to the original Prime Ticket, all the incarnations of Fox Sports West and KCAL-Channel 9. Some can recall vividly Bryant’s arrival in 1996 as a 17-year-old in his first training camp. There was that time a few years ago, at the Townsend Hotel near Detroit, when Kobe Bryant rallied everyone together for a Thanksgiving Day meal.All the TV guys included.The Lakers’ star wasn’t happy that the team decided against organizing a holiday party in the middle of a long road trip. This was an annual ritual, a time to be together, have a meal, hang out, and watch NFL games.This time, Bryant even kicked it up a notch by bringing some ping-pong tables into the ballroom. Then he started a tournament.