LOS ANGELES - The Lakers were eating dinner Friday in Hollywood when Kobe Bryant got the news. Somebody e-mailed him a link to an Internet story that reported his selection as the NBA's most valuable player.
A team-bonding exercise suddenly turned into a raucous celebration.
"There were a lot of (curse words) being thrown around," a smiling Bryant recalled Saturday, less than 24 hours after word leaked out of the league office that he had been named MVP for the first time in his 12-season career.
"It was a lot of fun," he added. "We were all together (Friday) night, which made it more special. It means a lot. For me personally, it's really special. The way it's being voted on, in terms of making your teammates better, that's always been a huge criticism directed toward me, so ... it's extremely special because it means I'm doing good, making my teammates better and putting us in a position to win."
The league is expected to make the news official this week, perhaps Monday, with commissioner David Stern on hand to present Bryant with the trophy before Game 2 of the Lakers' second-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz.
Today's Game 1, Bryant said, "is like a beast that's sitting on my shoulder."
Indeed, it was difficult for the Lakers to rest and relax after completing their first-round sweep of the Denver Nuggets last Monday.
Three days of uncertainty followed their first playoff series win in four years.
They were antsy.
Then came the not-entirely-unexpected news that Bryant would be the MVP followed shortly by the end of the Utah-Houston Rockets series, with the Jazz winning the decisive Game 6 and advancing to face the Lakers in the second round.
Two great mysteries suddenly were resolved in one evening.
"I'm very excited," Bryant said of winning the MVP award. "It's a great honor. I didn't know if this was going to happen in my career. It's special, especially to share it with the group of guys we have here."
It's a fitting honor, according to teammate Derek Fisher.
"In the toughest conference in basketball, he was able to lead his team to the top spot and also have great individual numbers to go with great team numbers," Fisher said. "He's a different man now. He has a greater appreciation and understanding of how to be great himself but then also to make guys that are just average or good, great themselves.
"He's developed the ability to do that now."
After a five-day layoff following their series victory over Denver, Bryant and the Lakers will have another chance to display their bond when their best-of-7 series against Utah begins this afternoon at Staples Center.
The Lakers won the regular-season series, 3-1.
Pau Gasol did not play in any of the four games for the Lakers and missed the lone contest with the Jazz after his Feb. 1 trade from Memphis because of a sprained ankle. The Lakers won without their 7-foot center on March 20 at Salt Lake City.
In the past, the Lakers played Kwame Brown against Utah's Carlos Boozer in the low post, with Lamar Odom defending Mehmet Okur on the perimeter. The addition of Gasol changes things for the better for the Lakers, according to Bryant.
"He's a threat down low," Bryant said of Gasol. "His length will help us out a lot defensively. He'll give Carlos something to think about.
"He can't roam around and help defensively. He's going to have to pay attention because of Pau."
Lakers coach Phil Jackson naturally declined to say if Gasol would defend Boozer. Jackson, in fact, sounded like a man with miles of videotape to study before feeling confident about discussing strategy with anyone, let alone nosy reporters.
"We matched up pretty well against them in the past with Kwame Brown playing against Boozer and Lamar playing Okur," Jackson said. "Pau has not played against them (while with the Lakers), so we'll see.
"Let's get this underway."