Despite growing up in southern California, John Cho -- who co-stars in the upcoming comedy "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle" -- was never much of a sports fan. But when Phil joined Kobe and Shaq five years ago, the stage veteran got hooked.

Why did you get into the Lakers' story?

I was actually more interested in the story of this four-star general/coach who came into a team that had all the talent in the world but couldn't seem to make it happen.

So Phil drew you in?

But I became a Kobe supporter. There was a lot of bizarre ill will toward Kobe, even before the scandal. I really think he's an artist, a physical artist. . . . Tracy McGrady, he's so skilled, but there's an element of art that's missing from his game to me. But Kobe, he paints up there. Phenomenal. And then I got interested in his detachment from the team. I always felt like I was the artsy kid who was on the outside, so I kind of related to Kobe.

It sounds like you're really into the drama of the thing.

It's that drama that's the story of sports, and that's why we love underdogs. We need Goliaths; people hate the Yankees and the Lakers, but that's good. It was great for the Pistons to dismantle the Lakers, it was great for sports. We need David to take down Goliath sometimes.

Who should play Phil Jackson if this goes to Broadway?

That's a good question. Who's got that physique? Maybe the brother [Brad Garrett] from "Everybody Loves Raymond." Although if Robert Duvall were lankier. . . .

-- Dan Steinberg

CHO