NBA stars at a recent Magic Johnson celebrity game brushed off reporters' questions about Bryant. Lakers are reluctant to talk about him.

Away from the cameras, Bryant, the Laker, has been a loner, rarely socializing with teammates. He prefers to hang out with his bodyguards, or work.

Early in his career, Bryant spent two hours before and after practice shooting jumpers until he had 2,000 "makes."

"I have not coached another player with a greater work ethic," said Del Harris, who coached the Lakers from 1996 to 1998. "I didn't see him so much as flirt with flight attendants or anyone else in the two years I coached him."

At the team hotels, players invite Bryant to join them for movies, trips to the mall and dinners. Bryant frequently but politely begs off. Instead, he stays in his room to study game tapes, plan workouts with trainer Joe Carbone, or be alone.

During last season's playoffs, Bryant was the only Laker absent from the post-game meal at the Minneapolis home of forward Devean George's mother.

"I know he's an extremely private person," said T.J. Zanin, 26, a Memphis Grizzlies video coordinator close to Bryant since they played on a 1992 summer-league team.

Living quietly

As an 18-year-old phenom, Bryant jumped from Lower Merion (Pa.) High to the NBA. Shaquille O'Neal tagged rookie Bryant "Showboat." Bryant seemed ready for "Showtime."

Bryant pushed designer sunglasses atop his shaved dome right before he announced as a high school senior that he was taking his talent to the NBA.

He took actress/singer Brandy to the senior prom. He had a Screen Actors Guild card, roles on Sister, Sister and Arliss, and guest seats on The Rosie O'Donnell Show and The Tonight Show.

But the celebrity seeking stopped there as Bryant "was single-minded and dedicated to bettering himself in basketball," Harris said.

For the better part of six years, Bryant lived quietly in Pacific Palisades, barely getting to know any of the neighbors, preferring the company of his family, who lived in a modest two-story home a quarter-mile away.

For the past year, Kobe and Vanessa Bryant have lived in Newport Coast in a 6,376-square-foot home they bought from sports agent Dwight Manley, who represented former Laker Dennis Rodman.

His neighbors have watched Bryant come and go, driving by in a blur of a luxury car.

Sometimes it's the black Ferrari, or the black Mercedes, or the black Bentley or the Land Rover with the new "Baby on Board" window placard.

Before Kobe Bryant faced criminal charges, Kobe and Vanessa Bryant fit well in their gated community

They have wealth, the cache of celebrity, a daughter - Natalia Diamante was born in January - a dog, a Pomeranian named Gucci, and a love of privacy.

No loud parties. No disturbances. No problems. Many neighbors, as well as Robert Laine, the grandfather who raised Vanessa in Huntington Beach, didn't know about the two 911 calls from Bryant's home.

On March 5, paramedics arrived to perform "advanced life support" on a woman and took her to Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach, Fire Department records show.