The front page of ESPN.com this morning was littered with stories on Kobe Bryant. I realize that the Lakers are the flashier team in this series, they probably always have been in this rivalry, but the media's love affair with Kobe has always been something that bothered me, and this is the perfect time for me to let it all out. So, forgive me while I rant on why I can't stand Kobe Bryant.
First of all, there is a difference between hating a player and a team, and hating the coverage of that player or team. It is rarely the fault of the player or team that the national media falls in love (or hate, see your Patriots) with them, and writes countless stories, essentially shoving the player down the throat of America. Some fans confuse this difference, and end up hating the player or the team just because they are forced to hear and read about them 24 hours a day. Bill Belichick is all anyone wants to talk or write about, and it is quite obvious that he doesn't love the camera; at least not when it's being trained on him (I had to). I do not hate Kobe because he is on TV a lot.
Other times, fans hate players or teams because they "kill" their team or favorite player on a consistent basis. This sort of hate is what was behind the old "Yankees Suck" chant. You know, the one Sox fans used to chant when the Bombers were dominating. (Now if we chant it, Yanks fans don't have much of a beef.) Fans, and I'm very guilty of this as well, we'll often say "I BLEEPING hate that guy" during a game in which their nemesis is, once again, lighting their favorite team up. So please, let me preface this post by saying, I do not hate Kobe because he is really good, or because he plays for the Lakers.
Now that we've got that happy junk out of the way, let me tell you why I do hate Kobe Bryant.
Most of these love letters from the national media touch on Kobe's great turnaround this year. People talk about how Kobe learned to trust his teammates, and be a leader and a better teammate this year. This is a good thing? Really?
Why should we be applauding a man who decided to grow up when he was 29 years old? That's a normal basketball progression? If you got invited to a Bah Mitzvah for a 30-year-old, that would be completely OK? These are the same writers that will rip a player for demanding a trade, chastise a star player for ball-hogging (ask Pierce), and condemn an athlete with off-the-court issues. Why not Kobe? Why does he get a pass?
This is a guy whose own team's fans should be ripping him. He single-handedly crippled a dynasty. This one man ran one of the top three big men ever and one of the top two coaches ever out of town. The national media plays it like a star who was facing down times, decided to play through them, the team "finally" gave him a supporting cast, and now he is thriving once again. The Lakers (and their blindly loyal fans) allowed this brat to tear a dynasty to shreds, play king of the hill for four years, cry about the team he has left to play with, and then reward him by mugging the Grizzlies for an All-Star big man. Jerry Buss let his future son-in-law hit the bricks for this smug brat. He shipped the best big of his generation to Miami, who let's not forget got a ring WITHOUT Bryant, for this brat. All this, and Lakers fans chant "M-V-P" for him on a nightly basis? This guy was the Least Valuable Player of the franchise for the better part of this decade.
This guy is not a star who struggled through thin years, to be rewarded with a chance at the Finals. This guy is not Paul Pierce.
ESPN's Stephen A. Smith brings up the Jordan comparison in the conversation he had with Bryant last week. I feel like I don't have to break into this "argument", but I'd like to note an instance that should have ended this years ago. After being criticized by his coach in April 2004 for shooting too much, Kobe refused to shoot against the Kings to prove a point to his coach. In a Game 7 during the first round of the 2006 playoffs against the Suns, down 15 at halftime, Kobe took only 3 shots in the final half. The next Jordan? Please. Michael would have fired more than three shots in the second half if he thought it could help his team win.
Bryant's basketball sins alone should draw the unending ire of fans and media alike. Someone needs to explain to me why he is the chosen one.
What about what happened in Colorado? Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot we no longer are allowed to speak about that. That's tucked under the rug.
Was Bryant remorseful? Sure, don't you remember he bought his wife a trillion dollar diamond ring and dragged her to the press conference? This guy makes Bill Clinton look like Ward Cleaver in the husband department. Yet, when he was coming back from the trial to play in the games that night, announcers and members of the media acted like he was a hero! That's unforgivable. Why does nobody talk about this? Never mind. You don't have to answer that one, it probably won't make it past my editor.
Maybe the most aggravating thing about Kobe, and in a sense, the thing that I hate the most, is how fake he is. I'm tired of the charade. That Sunday Conversation made me want to vomit. Kobe said on ESPN's Sunday Conversation that his teammates were "like my brothers." Brothers? Really? Apparently, in Kobe's World, you could cry about how crappy your brothers are, demand a trade from the family, causing your parents to ship off four of your brothers for one really good brother. You can't trade your brothers in real life. Ask Tito Jackson. How about the rest of his "brothers" that he wanted to be traded from that still are on the team? Now they are one big happy family? And the way he keeps force-feeding us this "I love these guys, I swear" routine makes it that much easier to see right through. For example, how they all showed up to his MVP press conference. What a sham. Brothers. Give me a break. Can you picture Sasha Vujacic borrowing Kobe's Bentley for a beer run? Brothers? So like, Jordan Farmar walks up to Kobe every day, punches him in the arm and gives him a noogie? I'm not buying it. You can hear the other players forcing it for the cameras. When they were pushing for Bryant to be the MVP to the media, they all sounded like frightened witnesses pleading the 5th in a mafia trial. This isn't the first time Kobe has talked about his "brothers." Remember, Shaq was his big brother too. How's that working out for him?
I don't think anyone "likes" this guy. He just has never fit in so he fakes it. He was a rich boy who grew up in Europe and went to the best high schools and came back for the States for his senior year. He used to say he was "from Philly", back before they booed him at the All-Star game. Bottom line, he has never fit in anywhere. But the little brat ran off his "big brother", and now he's the big man on campus, and the rest of the team has to play in his shadow. The brat became a bully. Bullies tend to have lots of "friends".
I can understand why his teammates pretend to love him. They want the ball, and their jobs. I guess I can forgive LA fans for cheering him on. He's the guy on their team. What can they do? I just can't fathom why the national media, and even fans across the country, even in Boston, still love this man. I guess I never will.
OK, hate is a strong word. It isn't like I hate him in the true sense of the word; I don't even know him. I don't wish anything bad on him, except a Finals loss. But in sports, fans can use harsh words like that in the context of the game. If I were GM of the Boston Celtics, and Mitch Kupchak wanted to trade Kobe Bryant for Paul Pierce straight up, I'd shoot it down in a second. I wouldn't take Bryant for anyone in a Celtics uniform. Not for Pierce. Not for Allen. No for Powe. I'd get skewered in the media. I'd get fired. I wouldn't get a job in the league. I'd sleep like a baby.
Three things I thought while ... hey ... did I mention I hate Kobe Bryant?..