Friday, July 11, 2008

Why I Love/Hate Kobe Bryant

I grew up a Lakers fan. My dad was a Lakers fan, and it was passed on to me. I watched the great Lakers teams of the 80s. Growing up I had posters of Magic, Worthy, Scott, Cooper, etc., in my bedroom. When I played ball I even used to wear socks to my knee because of my love for Cooper and a wrist band at my elbow in honor of Scott (though I didn’t go so far as to sport the goggles of Worthy and Jabbar). I even remember Jeff Lamp. Nothing made me happier than watching L.A. beat the Celtics, Pistons, or Jazz. I stayed true through the mostly down years of the 90s. I suffered through the years of Jones, Threatt, Campbell, Ceballos and Peeler, while watching teams like Seattle and Portland get to The Finals. It sucked. Then things changed—the Lakers got Shaq and Kobe. They won titles and were again the glamour franchise in the NBA. Things were back to normal, things were good—until one man made me question my fandom. Kobe Bryant.

I hate Kobe Bryant. Not in the sense that I hate him, but in the sense that I hate certain TV or book characters; they aren’t real, so I can hate them. Bryant isn’t real to me. Kobe has single-handedly changed my love for the Los Angeles Lakers, and it has nothing to do with the whole Colorado rape case thing (it is amazing that he bought his wife a 4-million-dollar ring to help ease the pain). I used to be die-hard about being a Lakers fan, and now I can’t even cheer for them. I don’t like Gasol, Vujabic, Radmonovic, Walton, or anyone else on the team. But it all goes back to Kobe.

I try to like KB8/KB24, but I just can’t do it. I respect his ridiculous skills—I think he’s clearly the best player in the NBA (even though PlayBoyd would argue with me), but he has always carried himself like he was the best player in the league even before he accomplished anything in the NBA. He has this annoying sense of entitlement. He always looks so smug. In the 1998 All-Star game (Michael Jordan’s last before his Wizards comeback) Kobe busted his butt to outplay MJ in what seemed like an effort to symbolize a “passing of the torch.” Come on. Not that playing hard against MJ or in an All-Star game is inherently wrong, but it irritated me. Kobe didn’t even deserve to be in the All-Star game that year; he only started one game that season. But he had something to prove. There he was, a bench player, trying to one-up MJ, because it’s all about Kobe.

At times I like Kobe. In the 1997 playoffs the Lakers lost to the Jazz. In a deciding game 5, Kobe hoisted four air-balls in the closing minutes of the game. He was taunted mercilessly by Jazz fans. He doubled his scoring average the next year, citing the humiliation in Utah as part of his motivation. He has since become the best clutch performer in the league. The 2002 All-Star game was in Philadelphia, Kobe’s “hometown.” Philly fans don’t like that Kobe claims it as his hometown and they booed him incessantly throughout the game. Kobe responded by going for 31-5-5 in 30 minutes and won the MVP award. It made me want to love him again, the way that he responded to criticism and the hostile crowd.

My dislike reemerged in the 2004 NBA Finals when the Lakers lost to the Pistons. In the series Kobe took 29 more shots than Shaq, while Shaq shot 63% from the field to Kobe’s 38%. Shaq averaged 4 points more per game than Kobe on 6 less shots per game. Nice work Kobe. Way to take the best player on the court out of the game. That crap was hard to watch as a Lakers fan. That offseason he used the Clippers (what up Clipper fan) offering him a contract as leverage to run Phil and Shaq out of town. It was exactly what Kobe wanted. The Lakers became Kobe’s team and he was out to prove his greatness. At times he did—getting Dwight Howard up close and personal, averaging over 35 ppg one year, 43 ppg in one month, and scoring 81 points in a game. Those numbers are amazing. He became the first player in NBA history to outscore an opposing team through 3 quarters—Kobe 62, Dallas 61. Wilt Chamberlain thinks that’s stupid. But with Kobe scoring at a ridiculous clip the Lakers didn’t win.

Speaking of playoffs, in typical Kobe fashion, proving his point (or greatness) has always been more important than winning. In a 2004 playoff series against the Kings he decided not to shoot after being criticized for shooting too much. L.A. lost that game. In the 2006 playoffs against the Suns, Kobe decided he would only shoot the ball 3 times in the second half, even with the Suns up by 15 at halftime. Why? To prove that his teammates are not reliable and that they need Kobe to drop 35 to have a chance of winning? Way to put the team first Kobe. Point taken—you are more important than winning. You truly are MJ’s heir apparent. . .

Have you ever watched Kobe give credit to others? It looks so unnatural to him. When asked about another player he seems to get this look on his face (probably wondering how Jordan would answer the question) like, “why aren’t we talking about me?” Kobe seems to overemphasize injuries. Whenever he remotely twists his ankle, watch him hobble up and down the court—especially after a miss—as if he were running on a wooden leg. But when he has the ball he’s surprisingly fluid, breaking people’s ankles and throwing down monster dunks. He seems to over-dramatize every gesture. It’s like he scans his brain to decide what Jordan would do (likely trying to remember what he read in The Jordan Rules), and then he tries to perform the action as naturally as possible. Oh, but he also plays the tough guy. When an opponent gets physical with him he hits a shot and then gives that menacing Kobe Bryant stare to the other team. Okay, tough guy. We get it. Your will to win is unmatched. Or, that is, your will to be the best. Individually, at least.

People keep saying: “Kobe has grown up this year. He’s learning to trust his teammates, and he gets them more involved.” Awesome. Let’s give him an effin’ cookie. It’s about time Kobe. You’ve been in the league for 12 years; we’re all really impressed that you finally put it together. We’re all patting you on the back that it took you forever to understand the common fundamentals of basketball 101—it’s a team game.

This year during the Finals the media kept mentioning that Kobe suffered through the last few years of futility and is now seeing it pay off. How about Paul Pierce? He really suffered through futile years with his franchise. Did he piss and moan about his supporting cast being terrible? Did he decide to stop passing to teammates to prove that they can’t do it without him? Did he demand a trade because the rest of his team sucked? No. That’s what made it that much sweeter for this Lakers fan to see Pierce hoist that Finals MVP trophy in the air. After all, he was the one who deserved it. I never thought I’d see the day where I’d cheer for the Celtics to beat the Lakers. It makes me a little bit sick because I’ve always been a Lakers fan, but I just don’t have the energy anymore.


DMAN said...

Love it. But there are a few errors in the timeline, such as Lakers vs Pistons is in 2004.

Check me out at:

Taylor said...

Just went off of memory on that and was obviously wrong. Fixed it now...

Rob said...

Eh, I take a different view. Kobe really is so obsessed with winning that it has caused numerous adverse affects in his life, be it in his personal life, with his teammates, with his coach, with other players in the league, with the media, and with fans. I forgive him of that.

Because, after all, we pay high ticket prices and the players make a ton of money because we want to see them do one thing - win. Don't give me this crap about wanting to see a player play "the right way" or "be a good person." Fans come out of the wood work and adore their team and its players when they win. Sure there are people out there like you who turn against your team because of a player you dislike, even though the team is winning, but you are in the minority. If the team wins, everyone's happy.

Given that, Kobe is the one player in the league who deserves his salary more than any other. He works extremely hard in the off season and demands that his teammates play hard as well. He ALWAYS wants to win - 1 on 1 v. MJ, or with his team. And that's what we play players to do. Win.

I got so fed up with Shaq and his attitude about the game. He was born with an incredible body for the NBA and athletic talent to boot. That is why he has succeeded. Don't kid yourself - his work ethic and desire to win has nothing to do with his 4 rings. There are other players out there like him. Rasheed is one that come to mind. That attitude disgusts me. These people may so much money, they should be working their butts off to give the people the one thing they want the most - to win.

So, while Kobe may be a jerk, may be the worst teammate in the world, may be a baby who feels he is entitled, I mostly forgive him of that because he is so motivated to win, a motivation that I feel is nearly unmatched in sports today. He's making so much money, his wife stayed with him despite him having sex with another girl, he kept his family in tact - and yet, last summer he was MISERABLE. Why? Because he isn't winning.

His extreme desire to win happens to fall in line with his purpose, and the reason he make so much money. So I forgive him.

I'll take an arrogant, entitled, jerk who is so overcome with a desire to win that he works his BUTT off and demands those around him do the same v. a nice, wonderful teammate who treats everyone nice but doesn't work hard to win. It's basketball. It's sports. Not life.

Sure I'd love for a player to have an insane desire to win coupled with an attitude that is pleasant and heart warming (i.e. the "perfect player"), but frankly that's extremely rare. If you could name some, the list would be short. Magic maybe. Certainly not MJ. MJ was a known jerk (who luckily didn't have to live in the shadow of another player that was much like him).

Thanks for the much needed break in bar studying Taylor. :)

P.S. Pierce actually did demand a trade. He just wasn't as public as KB, 'cause that's how Kobe is. KG also demanded a trade, and got his wish.

Anonymous said...

nice post. i enjoyed reading that even though i like kobe.

Taylor said...

Rob - I expected you. Your high regard for a "win at all costs" mentality must help as a lawyer! I think Kobe's desire to win is impressive, but I honestly think it has been superseded by his desire to be the best individually - until recently. But I don't know what goes on inside his head - I can only speculate, so I do. You make good points about Kobe. That's why I love/hate him. It would be easy if I hated everything about him.

I don't think Pierce has ever demanded a trade (I could be wrong - Boyd would probably know). I think he just expected to be traded because the Celtics were planning make some moves in the rebuilding process.

Anonymous said...

Kobe is a great player, there's no denying that, but I'll take a player like Pierce (who wants to win as much as anyone) who isn't an ass over a guy like Kobe any day. How big of a prick you are shouldn't be the measuring stick of how much you want to win. It might just mean you're an ass.
Thanks for the read - the article was awesome and Rob's comment was fun too. Nice blog. I seem to keep coming back.

Rob said...

Of course, I only appreciate his "win at all costs" attitude as a paying fan watching a pro basketball player. That's a fairly limited context, that serves him well.

And as I said, it's not ideal. I'd prefer a saintly, driven winner. I just think that the reality of the situation is that there are so few players out there like that. We don't know what goes on in the locker rooms, and I'm convinced that many players who are as driven and motivated as Kobe berate their teammates just as much as he does. Kobe is just so much more vocal about it to the press.

Boyd said...

Pierce never demanded a trade, but has said that if the Celtics had not made a move last offseason, he probably would have. Of course, his situation was MUCH worse than Kobe Bryant's was (24 wins that season).

I don't actually dislike Bryant at all. More than anything, I hate this hype that Kobe is "the best player on the planet" and "the best closer in basketball."

Niether is true. LeBron is every bit Kobe's equal as a player, and Chris Paul may be as well. And there aren't "closers" in basketball, which is part of the reason I hate that saying, and the other part is the fact that LeBron scored more points, shot a higher percentage, had more rebounds and more assists than Kobe in the 4th quarter last year.

If anything, Kobe is the best "starter" in the league, having the best 1st quarter stats. Those can be seen here:

Just a thought.

DMAN said...

Does Kobe really want to win at all cost?

Phil Jackson said Kobe deliberately ballhogged and kept the score close, so that at the end of the game, Kobe would make "game finishers" to make himself look like the hero.

Win at all cost??? Kobe is just doing it to make himself look good!

Kobe wanted the Finals MVP so badly that he would loose on purpose, so no one else (Shaq) on his team would get it! See 2003 & 2004.

What a selfish prick is that?

Kobe destroyed my dynasty. And I hate him for it.

Anonymous said...

Well how true is that win at all costs!!! As good as he is he can not be the best player in the league. The best player in the leauge would love to get everyone invloved and flat out just love to win.

Anonymous said...

lest we forget, he didn't just have sex with another girl - he raped her. he's a sick human being and I can't see how anyone can like his robotic, hormonally inbalanced style of play.

Kobe ain't MJ said...

He's not Jordan and he wishes he was.. Kobe is nothing without Shaq, he needs to be carried.. if they do anything this year it's because of Gasol coming on board! Good move coming straight to the NBA to sit on the bench.. he should of gone to college to get an edumacation! oh.. doesn't MJ have a college championship too.. Kobe, you try so hard..