Mike Procopio, BSBA '97 -- Kobe Bryant wanted to hear the Boston accent. He wanted to hear the wisdom of the street, he wanted to hear the wise-ass comments. He wanted to hear what "Sweetchuck" had to say.
"A lot of times a player's inner circle will only say the things the player wants to hear," said Sweetchuck. "I couldn't care less. There are some players who want to hear everything is good, they don't want to be coached or held accountable. That's not Kobe.''
Throughout the past season and a half, Bryant was leaning on the self-taught expertise of a white bald guy who is no taller than 5-foot-7 and no thinner than 220 pounds. Sweetchuck would analyze every upcoming game for Bryant and he would do so without reverence. He didn't want to meet with Bryant in person. He didn't even want to speak by phone. Up through Game 2 of the NBA Finals, they did most of their communication by e-mail because that was how Sweetchuck wanted it to be.
"I think he likes the fact I'm a little different, a little off," said Sweetchuck. "I just work. I don't ask for tickets, I don't ask for shoes or any of that. I try to argue my way out of going to the games. I don't want to be Turtle from Entourage, I don't want to be that guy. I'd rather watch the games with my fiancée back home."
He is Mike Procopio and he's 35. When he was growing up in Revere, Mass., a rough seaside town near the Boston airport, he was nicknamed after the nerdish character Carl Sweetchuck who was tormented by Bobcat Goldthwait in the Police Academy movies. "My friends used to always beat the crap out of me,'' he said. "I thought the nickname was quarantined at the city limits."
But Leo Papile -- now the assistant executive director of basketball operations for the Boston Celtics -- would hear from someone from Procopio's past that he had been known as Sweetchuck. Papile, a Boston-accented, wise-ass himself, spread the nickname and therefore did Sweetchuck a highly colorful favor: He helped him become a character, a memorable personality, which ultimately brought him into the world of Bryant.
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