Kobe Bryant And The Snakes Who Fill His Life

Kobe Bryant. If you just typed “Yes?” “No”? next to the man’s name there’s more than a 50-50 chance a firestorm of comments would ensue. A seven-game Lakers losing streak results in I told you so laughter from those who despise Bryant. A five-game streak of 40 points or more by Bryant accompanied by a five-game Lakers winning streak and those who laughed at the losing streak laugh even harder and claim that Bryant is the most selfish basketball player on the planet.

At every turn the name that arises in conjunction with Bryant is —— Michael Jordan. Always and forever it appears Bryant will be linked to Jordan, if for no other reason than the similarities in their games. Even long-time Lakers insider Roland Lazenby cannot help but to remember the words Phil Jackson used to laud Jordan and compare them with the words Jackson uses to commend Bryant:

In Bryant’s career with the Lakers, I can’t recall Jackson offering a truly Jordanesque quote about Bryant. Oh, Jackson has had plenty of nice things to say, some of them genuine.

Observers who dislike Bryant will point to this passage as an absolute “proof” that Bryant is no Jordan, and at age 28 now, probably never will be. Yet there is more, much more behind the scenes that must be considered if we are to make a true comparison between Jordan and Bryant. Using the column from which the aforementioned Lazenby passage arose will aid us greatly in this thorny endeavor.

There is one man who lies at the crux of the Jordan-Bryant, Bryant-O’Neal dual conundrums. This man has, and has had the power to sway public opinion about Bryant. Yet, until recently, he has remained quiet at least, condemning at most.

He is Phil Jackson.

But before we peer into the reasons for Jackson’s treatment of his stars, we must begin with an attempt to understand what makes Kobe Bryant tick. The next statement by Bryant tells us exactly what his goals for himself are:

As we talked, he recalled the absolute exhilaration; the complete sense of domination, that scoring 50 points brought him.

That night in high school had helped him articulate the goal in his basketball life. “I just want to be the man,” he told me. “I just want to dominate.” (Emphasis mine)

It wasn’t idle boasting by some punked-out kid. Bryant was earnestly expressing his destiny.

We have heard Bryant utter variations on this theme throughout his 11-year NBA career. Some of the distaste for Bryant comes from verbalizing the want to be the man, the want to dominate. In America we voyeuristically adore our heroes but we want them to come with public humility, no matter how transparently false that humility is. Included in this adoration of ours is the secret knowledge that we would never, ever want to take on the responsibility of being that figure, the person on whose shoulders the weight of an event falls.

And that is why we are so preoccupied with tearing figures like Kobe Bryant from limb to limb. If vigilante mob rule was still the law of the day, Bryant would have found his way to a rope and a tree some time ago.

Yet, given a moment of repose, at the same time we abhor Bryant for what we cannot be, how many of us would love to have the courage to want to be “the man?” How many of us would love to be that person who stands at the crossroads of success and failure so often that it becomes a place of comfort?

Kobe Bryant does what we wish we could do – and then tells us that is what he wants from his career.

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The first sign of misconstrued dislike of Kobe Bryant came soon after he entered the NBA. The pervasive rumor being floated by players and the press was that he was somehow soft because of his moneyed, European background and NBA player father. The whisper was that Bryant was a silver spoon bubble boy, rich enough to want for nothing, insulated from harm so that his path to the League was unencumbered by what ails so many athletically talented, black, urban youth hoping to achieve the NBA dream – the perils of day-to-day living.

Bryant heard the whispers that came in the form of, “he was groomed to be a superstar” and “growing up in Europe afforded him the necessary time to work on his game against older players who were more physically formed than Bryant, but not as gifted.” The whisperers made it seem as if Bryant was dropped into the Philadelphia high school basketball scene as a fully-formed NBA player, as if he somehow didn’t have to work as hard as everyone else to achieve his dream of being “the man.”

When he reached the NBA, the whispers only became louder and the efforts to stifle his growth became more pronounced:

“…nearly everyone he encountered in the NBA sought to harness his game. Even as a young player he could produce 26-point halves, but it was as if no one wanted to see them. Instead of seeing them as things of beauty, his coaches and teammates saw his scoring outbursts as unbridled acts of vanity.”

They sought to bridle him.

‘I will not let them change me,’ he told me. ‘I will find a way. I don’t know how, but I will find a way.’

It wasn’t a statement he made around his teammates and coaches. He didn’t have to. His every action spoke it. Every little thing he did declared “I’m on my way to greatness.”

Enter Phil Jackson, master manipulator.

Jackson, as he did with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, made a conscious choice as to which horse to ride in order to win NBA championships. The other horse had to be subverted to a lesser role. As we can now readily see, Pippen is not without ego; he feels he is Jordan’s basketball equal. It is Jackson who elevated Jordan beyond his already iconic status as the most prolific scorer in the NBA to the global force behind an NBA juggernaut team. In this process of ensuring Jordan’s and his own place in history, he wreaked havoc on Pippen’s psyche.

How do we know this for sure? After Jordan’s mysterious sabbatical from the NBA, Pippen thought he’d earned the right to be “the man” on the 1993-94 Jordan-less Chicago Bulls team. Pippen led the Bulls to a 55-27 record, second in the Central Division, only two games behind the Atlanta Hawks. Yet in the midst of the Bulls semifinal playoff series against the New York Knicks, Jackson designed the final play of Game 3 of the series for Toni Kukoc to take the final shot, not Pippen. Pippen refused to enter the game, Kukoc hit the game-winner while Pip sat on the sidelines, broken to his core.

At that moment Scottie Pippen knew what Phil Jackson thought of him as a person more so than as a player. Jackson knew Pippen had a greater chance at failure than did Kukoc because it was Jackson who molded Pippen in to the second-fiddle player he became while playing with Jordan; now Pippen knew too.

Phil Jackson had the same fate in store for Kobe Bryant that he had for Scottie Pippen. The only problem with Bryant is that, from the moment he stepped on an NBA court for a regular season game, played with the sole purpose of one day becoming the man; no player or coach would stand in the way of his goal. However, despite his bravado, this was Kobe Bryant, according to Lazenby, in the third year of his personal grand experiment:

“I remember chatting with Kobe Bryant on the phone years ago. He was a lost 20-year-old kid, in his third year with the Lakers, just becoming aware that Shaquille O’Neal was stepping on his neck with an inconceivable hatred.”

Oh really? And we are to presume that the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers had no idea O’Neal was engaged in this behavior? Short of an admission from Jackson, it is impossible to know for sure. Yet it is close to impossible to think that Jackson, known for his ability to have his finger on the pulse of his teams at all times, did not know O’Neal was in the process of practicing the fine art of subjugation on a 20-year old. Jackson then allowed this to happen. And there are two reasons he allowed O’Neal to cleave what would become a chasm between he and Kobe; Lazenby supplies us with one reason:

There was no question that Bryant had huge blind spots about himself and his relationships with older teammates. What 20-year-old doesn’t have blind spots? Bryant, though, had huge ambition, thus huge blind spots. He didn’t see that his ambition itself, his over-the-top work ethic, immensely irritated the veterans around him.

So, ambition and an exemplary work ethic breed hatred – at least dismay – from teammates. This is quite an insight, not only into O’Neal, but into the entire NBA culture. But that is fodder for another time.

The second reason Jackson allowed O’Neal to psychically step on Kobe’s neck? Jackson didn’t have to perform these duties himself as he did with Pippen, only to have an act of the tragic play reveal itself in public. With Shaq doing the dirty work, Jackson could sit in the shadows, let the chips fall where they may, attach himself to the side of the winner – inevitably Shaq – while exploiting the emotions of Bryant. And look great in the eyes of the sports media all the while.

Jackson was willing to bet he knew enough about Bryant to know that the strong-willed young player would use Shaq’s malfeasance as fuel to create a deep enough anger to sustain a years-long championship run. He was right. Bryant’s fourth season, 1999-2000 began a three-year NBA title run for the Lakers.

But anger coupled with on-court brilliance was and is no match for the media-savvy O’Neal and Jackson. O’Neal made sure in the press Bryant was always perceived as the “little brother” to Shaq’s myriad of selves – the Big Aristotle, Superman, etc. Jackson appeared to “tolerate” Bryant’s sometimes 40-point outbursts that Jackson manipulated into “Kobe being Kobe” personal statements rather than Bryant picking up the team on a generally off night. Lazenby tells the rest of the story:

Over the years, Bryant has endured much pain trying to establish that destiny.

His ambition has been blamed for wrecking a Lakers dynasty. He has battled himself, his teammates, his coaches, the game itself. He has done so fearlessly, relentlessly, with little sign of regret or doubt, only the dogged pursuit of his vision of what he is supposed to be.

There was no question that Bryant could on any given night be blinded by his own brilliance, just as his teammates could be mesmerized by it.

Soon many fans came to equate his every action with selfishness, so that no matter what he did, or how brilliantly he did it, his accomplishments were met with derision.

After the 2003-04 season ended with 4-1 NBA Finals loss to the Detroit Pistons, Phil Jackson stepped down as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. Jackson’s manipulations had clearly run their course and the only thing left was to run to his Montana cabin, then Australia to hang with Luc Longley.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, Kobe Bryant was blamed for Shaquille O’Neal’s leaving Los Angeles. O’Neal fostered the perception and it is a perception that exists today.

However, the reality of O’Neal’s being traded to the Miami Heat had nothing to do with Bryant and everything to do with the direction Lakers owner Jerry Buss and GM Mitch Kupchak saw for the team. And that future did not include O’Neal:

General manager Mitch Kupchak made clear the team’s priorities Thursday when he said the Lakers would do anything they need to keep Bryant and would try to accommodate O’Neal if he demands a trade.

Apparently upset over Kupchak’s remarks, O’Neal canceled his exit interview. O’Neal, who has been one of Jackson’s biggest supporters, is under contract for two more years but could opt out after next season.

Kupchak also had this to say:

“You can’t replace a Shaquille O’Neal, period,” Kupchak said. “That’s not our intention. This move, as bold as it was, was necessary.”

…and this:

When we made the decision to trade Shaquille- you use broad strokes with a brush when you’re painting that picture. Because in this business, you don’t know how things are going to play out…. So the broad strokes in our mind painted the picture where we can bring Kobe back at a young age, at 25 or 26 years old, bring in several other young players… and not break this thing down to where you’re winning eight to twelve games a year. So our broad stroke picture was… not to break it down to ground zero, but to break it down to a point where we wouldn’t have to wait eight to ten years to get competitive. We didn’t want to do that… and then Kobe deserves more than that. He doesn’t want to play for eight more years and then try to get to the playoffs. We felt that we had to put him in a position where maybe he waits a year or two, and we’re there again.

O’Neal proved the point that people will choose to believe a lie even if the truth is in front of them, if for no other reason than that they enjoy the persona of the person telling the lie. Shaq knows this and is not beyond the cryptic untruth:

“They said it’s about the money. It’s not about the money,” he said. “It’s about honesty, and the honesty me and [former Lakers general manager] Jerry West had. That’s been gone for four years now … It ain’t about the extension. Of course, that’s what they are going to make it out to be.”

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! For seven years O’Neal did nothing but undermine every effort Bryant made to excel in the NBA. When the choice came for the Lakers to choose between 30-something O’Neal and his want for $30 million and a mid-twenties Bryant, they chose Bryant. Without Phil Jackson to support him and ex-GM Jerry West to buffer his fall, O’Neal showed himself to be nothing more than another fragile-egoed prima donna incapable of dealing with the prospect of being traded. And traded in favor of the player he held at bay for so long.

And a year after the trade O’Neal remained steadfast:

“Most of the people that live here in LA will always be Lakers fans, and you have to understand that,” O’Neal said. “And I don’t take anything personal. But I know that they know who the real deal is.”

As far as public perception goes, “the incident in Eagle” sealed Bryant’s fate. Recounting the events of a dropped court case are unnecessary. What is important here is that before there was any evidence of wrong-doing on Bryant’s part, he was tried in the sporting press and in the court of public opinion:

“The image was of a perfect role model, a superstar athlete who didn’t have a parking ticket, the all-American boy and now, well, that image is tarnished,” said Bob Williams, chief executive of Burns Sports. “As of today and until the trial, his image is going to take a beating.”

Bryant lost endorsements from McDonald’s and Nutella. Coca-Cola stopped airing Sprite ads featuring Bryant, though the company was alleged to have planned to drop Bryant before his arrest for sexual misconduct.

Not long enough after the Eagle, Colorado debacle, Jackson dropped his own bombshell on Bryant, In 2004 the Phil Jackson diary of the Lakers 2003-04 season, ” The Last Season: A Team in Search of Its Soul,” was released. Jackson called his relationship with Kobe Bryant at times a “psychological war” and indicated that he sought to trade Bryant in January of 2004.

In an obvious attempt to clear himself from culpability in the failing of the Los Angeles Lakers of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, Jackson used the “feuding” between the two as part of the reason for his retirement:

“At times the pettiness between the two of them can be unbelievably juvenile.”

Jackson also wrote that Bryant wanted a trade if O’Neal stayed with the team because he was “tired of being a sidekick.”

Though this statement may well have been true, there is no reason to use it against Bryant. With O’Neal pattern of mal-behavior toward Bryant, Jackson should have empathized with Kobe; instead Jackson trampled on Bryant to ‘cleanse his soul.’

After a season of abject failure under Rudy Tomjanovich and Frank Hamblin where Los Angeles finished the season with a 34-48 record, Jackson returned to the Lakers bench. The stench of O”Neal and Jackson’s previous dirty deeds had apparently cleared. And Bryant, who suffered his first losing season in competitive basketball, was ready to do anything to claim his place as a Lakers legend – even acquiesce and allow himself to be coached by the man who sold him out at every turn.

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Today, we have a Los Angeles Lakers team with scads of young talent perhaps a year away of competing for an NBA crown. As Steve Nash grows older, as the San Antonio Spurs find fewer and fewer bodies to prop up their core players, and unless Tracy McGrady finds a miracle cure for his balky lower back, the Dallas Mavericks may soon be the only team to stand in the way of the Lakers and an appearance in the NBA Finals.

The triangle offense remains unstoppable and as soon as Jackson and his mentor Tex Winter find ways to implement Red Holtzman’s, New York Knicks-style pressure defense in accordance with new rules governing defensive play, the Lakers, Winters-Jackson philosophy of basketball will be ready to roll once again off the test pad and into the public’s consciousness.

Somehow Phil Jackson has gained the trust of Bryant, as witnessed by this Lazenby offering:

…after being Bryant’s uncommunicative enemy for several seasons, Jackson has become his ally, the man responsible for guiding him toward a team mind-set.

Today, Jackson even uses a phrase he only reserved for his favorite pet, Michael Jordan:

“At one point, we got the offensive rebound and (had) a whole new 24-second (shot clock) left. Lamar (Odom) gave the ball right back to him and Kobe went right back at them. He just smells blood in the water and he’s going to go after you.” (emphasis mine)

Yet, no matter what Kobe Bryant accomplishes as an NBA player, no matter how many more championships he wins, he will never be accorded the status of Jordan. Though Bryant is a better shooter than MJ and is equal to Jordan in every other respect of his game, Kobe will be regarded at best as “Jordanesque.” And to the Kobe haters there will be a litany of players better than Bryant.

No matter how many bridges he builds, no matter how much he allows us to know him, no matter if one day he opened his hands to reveal stigmata in his palms, Kobe Bryant will always be a self-centered, mean-spirited, sulking epitome of all that is wrong with professional sports.

All because he dared to vocalize his want for greatness. All because he was too young to know that egotistical grown men with darkness in their souls had a vested interest in never allowing Kobe Bryant to usurp their authority. All because they know the public’s proclivity for wanting to hate superstars is far greater than the public’s want to deify superstars.

With Jordan already on the throne, with Jackson there next to him, and O’Neal smiling with his arms around the two, in the NBA, the trinity is full.

And Kobe Bryant knows there’s no room in the inn.

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52 thoughts on “Kobe Bryant And The Snakes Who Fill His Life

  1. There is not one thing wrong with seeking greatness except if it is at the expense of everyone around you including your teammates. Basketball is a team sport and Kobe’s quest for greatness should not come at the expense of winning. The ultimate goal in a team sport has to be the success of the TEAM not the individual. Pippen sitting down because he could not take the last shot of the game is proof of his selfish nature, not some-kind of mind game of Phil Jackson. The goal is to have your best chance at winning. Shaq’s dealings with Kobe were not about Kobe’s atempts at greatness, it was about his selfishness. Kobe did not want to run the triangle offense with Shaq being the first option, even if that was successful, because this would thwart his ability to “dominate” the game. Never mind that there would be shots for him, he wanted all the shots. This article wants to portray Kobe as some poor innocent who everyone wants to hold down because of his great work ethic and pure desires. Get real, nothing is as black and white as you are trying to make it.

  2. suzhud-
    How to put this?… your thoughts on Kobe are based on a falsehood..

    There is no “first option” in the triangle offense, or the “two-guard front” triangle offense which the Lakers run. Selfishness can occur – and at a certain point is actually encouraged in the triangle. But. The first time selfishness happens in the triangle is when there is a post entry pass and there is no pass to a cutter or pass to the weakside guard who pops out to the free throw line. So, the only person in that option who can and way too often was selfish, was Shaq….

    In the two-guard front triangle, the off guard – Kobe -“follows” the ball by DESIGN, not because he wants the ball and it’s not as if he’s chasing the ball begging for it. he’s aligning himself at certain spots on the floor to 1) maintain offensive continuity… if he receives a pass he must either be prepared to shoot, penetrate or further facilitate the offense and 2) so that he can replace the point guard at the triangle’s wing position if the point guard guard makes a corner pass and performs a post cut. That is what might “appear” selfish, but within the context of the triangle, it is not selfishness at all…..

    Finally, within what I just described, there are, in the end, over 200 options for the position Kobe plays within that set of options, so that player must have the greatest ability to perform within the triangle and have the strongest understanding of the offense…..

    …hope that helps…

  3. Thanks for the clarification.

    My thoughts are based on the writer’s justification for Kobe’s behavior being that everyone somehow lined up against him to prevent him from his goal of “greatness”. My thought remains greatness in a team sport is based on your desires for the sucess of the team first, and your personal satisfaction second.

    Kobe made it clear that he wanted the triangle to run through him not through Shaq. Shaq never had a problem sharing the ball because his first goal was winning, with his ego satisfaction being a close second, but second nonetheless. I would respectfully disagree that Shaq exhibited any selfishness close to the selfishness Kobe displayed during this time. Also, regardless of what Shaq said, he wanted no parts of shooting freethrows in the fourth quarter and was even more willing to give the ball up then. Kobe made it clear he had no desire to be “second fiddle”. The only person really standing between Kobe and greatness he speaks of is Kobe. When the player Kobe needs comes to L.A. this season, I think Kobe will find himself in a better position to understand what true greatness is.

  4. hmm… this is one of those epic articles suited for induction into the pantheon of sports writing. this would make a great truehoop-ish article – have you considered submitting it to espn? this little pocket of insight that is hoopsaddict deserves more attention.

    jemelle hill got grilled to the core for her defense of kobe – let’s see how the mob reacts to this one.

  5. I would argue that greatness and selfishness walk hand in hand. Is Kobe selfish, no doubt. But Shaq was also selfish. Many times during the Lakers dynasty Shaq would scream at his entire team “get me the f****ing ball!” in order to take advantage of a percieved match up advantage. As much as Kobe wanted to be “the man” Shaq wanted those same things, and as the veteran player was rewarded with that status. Shaq’s willingness to give Kobe only so much credit and share the spotlight only so much was selfish as well. Shaq has even said recently that he should have done things different with Kobe and has worked harder in his relationship with Wade to ensure that their relationship does not splinter like it did with Kobe. Team success should be the biggest priority, but the tremedous ego’s that these caliber of players possess often make it hard to always think team first when it’s their individual greatness that inspires team success. Anyways, this was a great article with insight I have rarely read when discussing Kobe.

  6. I agree. That was a great piece of writing and it made me actually kind of feel sympathy towards Bryant.

    Pertaining to what you said Suzhud, I think you’re correct in the sense that regardless of the article Kobe Bryant has been extremely selfish– especially early in his career, but I don’t believe for one second that Shaq put winning ahead of his ego. The problem with both Bryant and Shaq was that neither player would put the big picture before themselves. Shaq could have easily said, “I’m Robin to Kobe’s Batman”, but he was unwilling to do that–even if just to promote team harmony–because his ego got in the way. The only reason he seceded his position as top dog to Wade was because he realized that his skills were diminishing and I also believe that he wanted people to believe that the feud between him and Bryant was Bryant’s fault. Shaq wanted to make it appear as if he was willing to play second fiddle to a guy as long as he was humble. Wade is perceived has humble, Bryant is not. I don’t feel like writing anymore so I’ll just end this. I hear where you’re coming from, but it does take 2 to tango.

  7. Jordanesque is a perfect word for Kobe. His game resembles Jordan’s, but it’s simply not as good. I’m not talking about championships or MVP’s, but just look at the numbers. From 2004-2006, Kobe has been the man on a bad team. His numbers from that era: 31.5 points on 45% shooting, 5.3 assists, 5.6 rebounds. From 1984 until 1989 (excluding 1985, when he broke his leg and didn’t play most of the season), Jordan was the man on a bad team. His averages in those years: 33.3 points on 52% shooting, 6.1 assists, 6.4 rebounds. They both played about 40 minutes per game.

    So Jordan has a slight edge in raw numbers, and a MASSIVE edge in shooting percentage. Jordan was an absolutely unstoppable penetrator, and while Kobe has moments of this, he (as you said) relies on his jump shot much more. However, Kobe is a much better 3-point shooter, so check out their true shooting percentages from those era’s. Kobe: .567, Michael: .600. Jordan has the edge again. This is why Kobe is ‘Jordanesque’ – he’s an imitator (and a damn good one), but not the same thing.

  8. Plain and simple, Jordan’s mid range J midway through his career was better than anything Kobe’s ever had and Jordan was a far better finisher and had far superior body control (something Wade has in common with Jordan and the main reason why he reminds me more of M.J. than Kobe).

  9. This is one of the best articles that I’ve read. It deserves a much larger stage. Any chance of submitting it a major newspaper or sports magazine???

  10. I remember reading this on dwil’s blog a little while ago…still a great piece the second read-through. Very provocative and well-crafted.

  11. Terrific piece on one of the most alluring psyches in the NBA. I try to be a Kobe supporter as much as possible, at least when it comes to on court stuff. Yet, the controversy that continuously surrounds him boggles my mind. I feel like it contrasts almost unnaturally with his on-court ability. I’ve always believed that success at basketball requires a balance of selfishness and selflessness. Winning teams win because their individuals know when to try and score, and when/where to pass. Since the start of his career, Kobe has displayed a terrific ability to understand the way the game should be played. Yet, for whatever reason, he often shows a selfish disposition. How can someone with such a sound grasp on what makes good basketball be so detrimental to a team’s health? It doesn’t make sense to me. Now, it would be too easy to claim that Kobe is a victim of misfortune, that he had the bad luck of being surrounded by people like Shaq, Phil Jackson, and Mitch Kupchak; but there are two sides to every story and no one is blameless. Jackson is, as you aptly described, a snake. He is the perfect coach for the era of mass media because he manipulates it so well. Shaq, as we all know, is as much driven by ego as he is by the desire to succeed. One need only check out his rap lyrics to see this. Yet, as you said in your article, Kobe is also ego driven. He wants to be the man, in other words, he wants to follow the Jordan model for success. Yet Kobe is simultaneously blessed and cursed because while he possesses a game similar to Jordan, his dynasty did not include the types of facilitators that Jordan was blessed with. Players like Pippen, Horace Grant, Ron Harper, and Dennis Rodman allowed Jordan to be the man because of the way that they played (Pippen especially, unique in that he was equally effective dominating the ball as point-forward as well as scoring off cuts). Kobe, on the other hand, played a Jordan role in an offense that featured very different personnel. Thus, Kobe got a taste of what it was like to be Michael, but on most nights, it just didn’t pay to allow him to dominate the ball the way Jordan did. It didn’t have to do with his talent or ability, it had to do with what made sense given the Lakers’ personnel. Now Kobe is in a situation where he is the de-facto man because the rest of his team sucks. What he needs to realize is that Jordan was lucky, he had just the right amount of talent, the perfect type of playing style, and the perfect complimentary teammates to catapult him into myth. Situations like that do not arise all the time. (I think the closest thing I have seen, stylistically, to those late 90s Bulls is this year’s Cavs team, which is one talented wing short of being the Diet Pepsi to the Bulls’ Coke Classic). If Kobe retires without playing for another wining squad, we should lament it as the waste of one of the NBAs greatest talents, but we should also not be so naive as to wonder how much of a hand Kobe himself had in everything.

  12. Entirely unconvincing. It would help, for example, if Kobe could lift a team. Are the Lakers support cast all that much worse then, say, Tim Duncan’s supporting cast? Hard to argue that Kobe’s supporting cast is about 20 regular season and two playoff series worse.

    Kobe lacks many of the best traits of Jordan – an understanding of the flow of a game, the ability to know when to take difficult shots and when to pass to open teammates, the ability to defer at the beginning of a half and dominate for small stretches. Kobe is entirely without flow. He is basketball ID with no couterbalancing superego. All of this shows up in his plus/minus statistics which are pretty pedestrian.

    (As an aside, his defense is also not in Jordan’s league. It can be, when he is concentrating, but he doesn’t have the same determination to crush the other teams will *on defense* that Jordan had).

    Kobe is really more like a less team oriented World B. Free, David Thompson, George Gervin or Alan Iverson (but taller) then he is a Michael Jordan.

  13. “Today, we have a Los Angeles Lakers team with scads of young talent perhaps a year away of competing for an NBA crown.”

    My man, you are a talented writer, and this is a pretty solid piece, but you are deluded in this statement, and it betrays an overall pro-Kobe myopic bias that clouds the entire article.

    My, oh, my, poor Kobe Bryant is the victim here–it’s like Shaq, PJax, and the Lakers just bent him over a chair and–oops, that’s Kobe’s pet move.

    Last week’s whine-fest lends credence that all the whispers are true–Kobe Bryant is a self-centered baby with poor social skills who can’t see anything beyond his need to win–to dominate, as you say. Karmic justice has come around full circle for him, what is sad is that he has a legion of fans who devote their considerable talents and energies defending him.

  14. Wow. You’ve actually managed to make me feel some sympathy for the guy, which is an incredible feat. I think Kobe is selfish and has shown incredibly bad judgment, that could be said of probably 1/3 of the players in the NBA. It’s his greatness that gets him ripped for it so badly. You might have even converted me to a Kobe fan after this…

  15. Quote:”Entirely unconvincing. It would help, for example, if Kobe could lift a team. Are the Lakers support cast all that much worse then, say, Tim Duncan’s supporting cast? Hard to argue that Kobe’s supporting cast is about 20 regular season and two playoff series worse.”

    Omg. Ofc, it is. The 2 teams can’t even be considered equal, not even when you leave out their respective superstars.
    It’s hilarious how ppl wanna picture the lakers supporting cast as anything but terrible when it actually is. On the other hand, LBJ’s team is always portrayed as pretty bad and only LBJ makes the teammates better.
    I watched the last game of the Det-Cle series and was amused about how unproductive James’ offense was. Then when one of his “oh so bad team mates” save the day, it was because James made him believe in himself. It was hard to make LBJ’s performance look good in that game as it was just crap but there is so much “King James”-hype atm and all the ESPN columnists try to write James an all-time great instead of making him earn it.
    Dunno what’s more amusing, them trying so hard or all the mindless and dull NBA fans falling for it…

  16. Interesting… I appreciate that you tried to throw some light on another way of looking at the Kobe situation, but it ended up sounding a bit exaggerated in the other direction.

    I agree that Shaq and Phil Jackson are not beyond blame. They have large egos, they take cheap shots as well, they’re both very, very competitive. And for that matter Jordan could be a mean SOB that you might want to play with, but you wouldn’t want to hang with.

    I think one of the most important differences between those three and Kobe is a subtle one…the way Kobe handles himself on the court. His body language. From many, many articles about Kobe one thing that has often been pointed out is that he doesn’t have many friends. He’s a bit introverted…and/or almost anti-social. Shaq routinely took in rookies, Jordan teased and antagonized people but had a regular group of friends, and Phil often seems kind of above it all and he keeps that zen aura of mystery about him.

    Kobe just ends up ‘seeming’ more juvenile, less friendly. His body language toward his teammates, the way he stands apart from others, his facial expressions or lack of expression. Aloofness, alone, contemptuous, isolated. Those are things you can’t hide on TV.

    So yes…he is easily one of the 3 most talented NBA players today (and has been for several years), but he isn’t well liked. And will never be widely liked. Because we read him as another human, just like all the other people we meet every day, as much by the non-verbal cues as by their actions or accomplishments.

    It also means that he is unlikely to be a champion anytime soon. Other players can read him as well. It would have to be a very fortunate circumstance for the right player to land with Kobe again. And it would mean that those players wouldn’t be turned off by and alienated by Kobe during the season. I doubt this will happen in the next 4-5 years.

  17. LMFAO – you make a good point – the Cavs and the Lakers both have pretty poor teams around their superstars. And not all of that is on Kobe.

    But I bet 90% or more of the NBA players out there would rather play with James than Kobe. And perhaps more importantly in this era of the salary cap – the players who actually play with James are more motivated, engaged and simply happy to play with James than those who play with Kobe.

    James does deserve some credit for Gibson’s performance, not all of it, maybe not as much as has been given, but some. I can’t recall a Laker player mentioning how Kobe took them under his wing, pumped up their confidence and then fed them over and over for shots. That isn’t who Kobe is…he can’t connect with other people in that way.

    And that would conflict with him being “the man” as he himself says. Even when he does decide to go the assists route it often feels like he’s doing it out of spite.

    Again – it isn’t just the actions that count, not at all. It’s the way they are done. Ever been in an argument and the other person is exasperated and says “Fine! I’m sorry!! There, are you happy now?!?”

    Are you ever happy then? But they just apologized, right? Of course not, shouting “I’m sorry! Are you happy now?” isn’t an apology, not at all. The words are there but not the intent.

    Kobe can pass the ball quite well, rack up a bunch of assists, but everyone can tell that he isn’t happy about it, that it brings him little joy. The intent is not there. The viewing public sees it and his teammates feel it.

  18. yea… so what if i printed this… that doesnt make me weird…

    what i have seen, along with others recently with lebron in the spotlight, is that many fans will actively root against a certain player in the thought that it actually makes their favorite player somehow better… i used to root against kobe because he made my god michael jordan seem less good… for no better way to put it… but then i saw kobes raw talent and fearless play and would defend it to the death.

    what i dont do… is tear apart lebron just because people say he might be better than kobe… i believe he isnt… but i do enjoy watching him because he is an amazing talent.

    i think people need to do the same with kobe.

  19. “Omg. Ofc, it is. The 2 teams can’t even be considered equal, not even when you leave out their respective superstars.”

    I don’t know why you would think so. Odom is probably better then either Parker or Ginobli (though it is close). All three are borderline all-star talents who can stuff a stat sheet but who have some serious limitiations. But Odom is 6’10. So let’s match Parker with Odom and call it a draw.

    Then you go Bowen v. Walton. Bowen is a far superior defensive player and a far inferior offensive player. Walton is a skilled passer, and a decent shooter who can’t defend a blind man. Sure, it’s an edge for Bowen, but how much over the course of a season… a win? A win and a half?

    The Spurs are a team that won 58 games with the likes of Fabricio Oberto, Francisco Elson and the corpse of Brent Barry getting significant minutes.

    Tracy McGrady won 52 games with 1/4 of a functional back, Shane Battier and Dikembe Mutumbo and an occasional cameo by Yao Ming.

    Carlos Boozer (!) carried a team whose 4th best player was a crying, confused and averaged 9 and a half points per game and who don’t have a single guy who can guard the wing to 51 wins.

    Each and every one of those stars had about as much help as Kobe, but each of them managed to carry his team farther and do more. Kobe was given what, with, in the hands of a star player should be a pretty average team and made them… pretty average.

  20. @Mike:
    Parker is quite a bit better than Odom. Gino, is about as good. (Ofc, this is just a matter of perception as we don’t have a real way on measuring how good they really are. Stats don’t count imo as they are based to much with who someone plays).
    That’s 2 players that are equal or better than LAs 2nd best (by far) player.
    You might be right with Walton being about as good as Bowen. The important matter though is that his style doesn’t really give the Lakers anything with both Kobe and Odom on the floor. In Bowen you have an awsome defender which is very important for the Spurs as it gives the team a lot versatility and that absolutely necessary.
    So they have a better PG a SF that fits into the team better and an all-star guard coming off the bench in Manu (quite a luxary) as they also have finley who usually starts.
    Seriously mate, taking the superstars out of the teams would make them even more unequal.
    Don’t get me wrong, you have some valid points of course when you compare certain players, but the game just doesn’t work like that. Imo the Lakers have the same problem the Knicks have. Too many SG-like and SF-like players lacking a real big man and no decent play maker. You can’t win a lot of games relying on outside shots and crappy D all the time imo.

  21. Agreed.
    It’s not only about how good your individual players are, it more importantly about how good they fit together.
    LA is a team without chemistry. Too many similar players just don’t work well against a proper team. You could propably switch Kobe with whataver other superstar guard/small forward there is in the league and the team’s performance would be even worse.

  22. @Django_Z:
    You make a good point. In no way I wanto to take away from LBJ. He is a really great player, but also enjoys playing with a slightly better (and certainly more functual and structured) supporting cast than Kobe (hey he even has a center and a PG ;))
    I wish ppl would stop trying to make one of them look bad just to make the other one look good. I for one, even though I am a fan of Kobe, really enjoy watching them both. There just is no need for petty hate posts/ articles especially when they come from a professional sports writer.

  23. Ok, that was just propaganda there. There are people who ACTUALLY WENT TO HIGH SCHOOL WITH KOBE who say he’s an egotistical A-hole.

    I dislike Kobe Bryant – A LOT. I do acknowledge that he is the single best player in the NBA right now. On offense, he is the most unstoppable, the most feared guy. And when he pays attention, he can also be a terrific defender.

    But this article is pure Kobe-suck-up. Of course Kobe contributed to Shaq being traded. Not to say that Phil and Shaq don’t bear some of the blame, but this article is saying *to the complete contradiction of its own analysis of Kobe’s psyche* that he had nothing to do with Shaq being traded. Even this article acknowledges that Kobe is selfish, and yet it’s portraying him as the victim without actually finding any new cause for that.

    This is sucking up at its worst. Oh poor Kobe Bryant, it’s everybody else’s fault, it’s a conspiracy that makes him hated etc etc. Oh really? What about all that Black Mamba junk?

    Lebron is not as good a player as Kobe… but he is better at making his team better. When Lebron passes the ball, his teammates are encouraged, they want to take it, and if they miss, they’ll still take it when Lebron passes the next time. When Kobe passes the ball… Well, damn, HE SCARES HIS OWN GUYS INTO MISSING SOMETIMES. He puts them under so much pressure when he passes to them.

    At the beginning of this season, I was beginning to think the Lakers had turned the corner, that maybe Kobe had gotten to that point where he can balance his own scoring with the needs of the team… then they dropped off the face of the planet. Now, I’m not saying I was there… but it’s easy to imagine how that started with Kobe. His guys start missing… so he gets irked at them, which discourages them. The games start going by. When he passes to them, it’s like “You better make this open j, OR ELSE.”

    Kobe makes even his own guys wither away. He needs to have another superstar on his team who can stand up to his ego and give the other guys some fricking backbone. He is just not the type who can do it with passive types around him. I believe that AI will be a much better player with Carmelo next to him… and I honestly think Kobe was better when Shaq “had his foot on his neck.” Because that gave Kobe more energy and more focus to do what he is honestly the best at – SCORING. Being the leader, being the guy who gives the team the kick in the pants when it needs it… that’s not something an arrogant loner like Kobe is suited for.

    Also – the real haters are not the guys who diss Kobe. Kobe INVITES that with his own behavior. Don’t you think that crap with Jerry West then demanding a trade after all the years of wanting to be The MAN deserve it? If Lebron acted that way, he too would be inviting the hate.

    2 contrasting images that stick in my mind.

    1) Robert Horry has the ball at the 3 point line, loosely defended. Kobe is yelling at him, slamming his hands together, “Give me the ball! Give ME the ball!” Horry gives Kobe this glance like “Are you an idiot?” then calmly drills the 3.

    2) Game 6 vs the Pistons. Lebron’s shot is not falling. Gibson’s shot is. On the sidelines during a timeout, Gibson is smiling huge, while Lebron is yelling at him like a madman… only he’s yelling encouragement, he’s saying take the shot, he’s saying shoot with confidence.

  24. AYo it’s DWil-

    Thanks to everyone for appreciating this piece enough, if for nothing else, to use it to spark some serious dialogue about Kobe, the nature of athletic excellence, and the triangles Phil Jackson seems to create on and off the court.

    Sean: thanks for having read it the first time….

    To those who cannot see beyond whatever it is they want to see: as was pointed out above, of course Kobe is selfish and of course he’s a self-centered ass. To some degree, ALL top-level athletes are. You must be that to be “the man” (or, “the woman”). some people are just better at public politics than others; some lack in decorum because they’re so consumed about where they are going; some see through the politics and refuse to play the game, and some try to play the game but cannot comprehend how other humans can be so petty as to not understand their pursuit of perfection.

    Kobe is in all those places, like John McEnroe was, like Dan Marino was, like Steffi Graf was, like Barry Bonds is.

    No one, though, can discount the role the press plays in shaping the image of these people for the fan – and that’s all of us watching . If you actually believe that some of your negative reaction to and athlete or positive reaction to another athlete isn’t in some way shaped by the media, then you’re missing the point of what the media is about. It is a tool of propaganda – and that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily bad, it just is.

    What is “bad” or negative is that media makes it easy for us NOT to find out more about a person or event on our own. So we just end up spouting what we heard somewhere else, or repeating the feelings of the consensus, rather than having our feelings be a personal expression of what it is we’re perceiving……

    With all that said,

    peace, peeps – and thanks again!….

  25. “It’s not only about how good your individual players are, it more importantly about how good they fit together.”

    I agree with this. I just think it is the crux of the anti-Kobe argument. While he hasn’t had the best support, he hasn’t seemed to show any facility at making his teammates better. Duncan has the advantage (like Kidd) of being able to dominante without taking a lot of shots. James has a passer’s mentality. Nash directly gets his teammates easy shots.

    Dirk doesn’t do any of those things, but he also doesn’t shoot over a triple team when his teammates are wide open. Kobe might make a couple of those, but it has to damage team chemistry and consistancy to never know when he’s going to decide to pass for an open shot or just shoot over everyone. How much pressure does it put on other players when they realize if they miss a jumper they might never see the ball again?

    So part of the problem with Kobe whining about the quality of his cast is that he doesn’t seem to have done enough to make them better.

  26. re: dwil

    As the current anti-Kobe poster in this thread, I figure I’d take objection to this:

    “To those who cannot see beyond whatever it is they want to see: as was pointed out above, of course Kobe is selfish and of course he’s a self-centered ass. To some degree, ALL top-level athletes are. You must be that to be ‘the man’ (or, ‘the woman’).”

    Sure, there might be some truth to that, but just because all top players are competitive and, to a degree, selfish, does not mean some cannot take that selfishness and competitiveness and mold it in productive directions. It had to *kill* Jordan to pass to Jim Paxon and BJ Armstrong. He did all the work and they would get an easy basket. Had to drive him nuts to give up the ball to Luc Longley to make some awkward move in the post.

    Point is, he did *because* he was competitive. He realized what he had to do to win and even if it wasn’t something that he liked, he was able to get it done. It was probably really darn selfish of him to act unselfishly.

    If only Kobe Bryant had that kind of selfishness.

  27. ^Very true on the point about the media, I don’t think fans should believe a word that comes out of mass media outlets unless its about the product of basketball being played on the floor. Bryant himself (and his PR guys) are some of the best media manipulators out there. Do you remember his rap career? No, because they glossed it over before it got out of hand. He also did a great job of reinventing his image after the events in Colorado, the whole ‘Black Mamba,’ hate me because I’m better than you image was carefully crafted.

    Still, we can’t discount everything we know about this guy. There is something up with Kobe Bryant that goes beyond sheer will to win. The man is intelligent and articulate, he is careful in how he emotes during interviews, yet the way he has gone about his career points to the fact that there is a lot of negative stuff going on beneath the surface. So while you’re right, DWil, that we shouldn’t just spout the negative stuff we hear from mass media outlets, we also shouldn’t allow him to claim innocence just because he has been surrounded by some of the league’s better manipulators.

  28. Mike, I don’t know if it KILLED Jordan to make those passes, but I would agree that 9/10 times he would have rather taken the shot himself. Jordan bought into Jacksons’ system though, in a way that I’m not sure Kobe does. Also, Jordan was not always like that, it took time for him to mature. Kobe’s growth was stunted by being so good and so succesfull so young. Had he gone through at 19 what he’s going through now, I think he would have matured a lot more effectivly. Because, however, he was given great teamates from the start who could compensate for his errors, he was able to coast (mentally) for the first few years of his career.

  29. This article is very well written, a lot of insider info, it was really enjoyable, but you’re supporting a slant that just can’t be propped up. The “phsychological war” aspect has been played up to an unbearable extreme to rationalize the fact that Bryant wasn’t better than Shaq while he played with him, and he had a hard time playing sidekick. The fact is if Bryant wanted to win he would have wanted Shaq back. But his desire to win was second to his desire to be the man, and that is why I will never put him in the same breath as Jordan (ever hear Paxton or Kerr complain about his selfishness) or Magic or Shaq (who was smart enough to defer to Kobe and Wade in the clutch when the situation called for it) even Tim Duncan (who had no problem deffering to Robinson during his early years, or to Ginobilli in the clutch today). They didn’t play juvenile mind games, they didn’t need to have their actions rationalized by articulate fans, because at the end they did what was best for their teams, not for themselves. He is a great scorer (among the best ever) an excellent player (behind only Duncan and LeBron, IMHO, right now) and a good leader. Kobe is good enough player to win a title if he had good players around him, but he placed all his focus in bettering himself, and not his team. I think he is realizing this right now, and I hope he can turn it around, because without him the NBA is in the King’s throes, at the mercy of Duncan’s knees, McGrady’s back, Nash’s will, and the promise of Deron Williams and Ty Thomas.

  30. I have to agree with others about the article’s different viewpoint surrounding the Lakers Holy Trinity. This article provided insight that probably the average fan would never consider (myself included).I can honestly say that I have more appreciation and respect for Kobe Bryant.

    I just wanted to comment on a few things:

    Jordanesque is no more a definition of Kobe than Robertsonesque is for Jordan. All the aforementioned players are/were great talents that elevated the excitement of the game and if they “borrow” or study moves of their predecessors then they should not be subjected to ridicule.

    It so amazing how KB is criticized when he does not pass often to his teammates but no one seems to say anything about MJ’s selfish play. Everyone can remember the passes to Paxon, Kerr, and Hodges for game winners, but think how many passes did MJ make when he scored 50+ in losing efforts? How many passes was he making when they were getting bumped in the first or second round? No one ever criticized MJ for taking an ill-advised shot or for dominating a quarter, half, or game while is teammates sat back and watched. This whole campaign surrounding KB’s selfishness compared to MJ’s team play stems from the fans dislike of KB as opposed to their love for MJ.

    3) Let’s not downplay Shaq’s behavior in the Laker split. Remember, this is not the first time Shaq had a problem with a young talented guard. I seem to remember trouble, grumblings, and fights in Magic camp between Penny and Shaq. In essence, Shaq is a 350lbs spoiled brat cry-baby that thinks his size can intimidate and man-handle people.

  31. Hey, Whats wrong with you guys??? first of all Jordan never brought into Phills system, if you recall Jordan was one of the first players ever to have the GREEN LIGHT AKA shoot till the game is over, cmon ya’ll when Jordan was playing we called him a ballhogger with one of the worst shooting % in the game, AND YOU KNOW YOU DID, I never heard anyone mention Jordan as a team player when he was playing{see Horace Grant} the fact is michael had not average players with him but Damn good players with him, {Scottie Pip, Horace, Dennis Rodman, Ron Harper, Toni Kuk, Steve Kerr #1 3 pointer Accuracy when he played, and he was on the bench lol} Face it Jordan played with players who dominated there position, anytime you have the league leading rebounder/defensive guru, and the best three point shooter, with the best small foward, well what hell you think is going to happen not to mention a very good Ron Harper who was already made before he even landed in Chi town, for people to say Kobe has played with this type of roster from 04 till now is crazy, Furthermore I don’t these people who bash Kobe are Kobe haters, when actually they are Laker haters, MY theory, when we had Shaq EVERYONE HATED SHAQ, Ya’ll heard the saying’s, he only dunks, he’s a BullY, HE always uses his elbow, the list goes on, now that he’s gone the world loves him, lol the truth is ya’ll just hate the greateset franchise alive {no disrespect Boston}

  32. There is one word for this: OVERANALYSIS

    The root cause for all these problems is EGO. One player has to be the team leader, and the second best player has to be, well, the second best player. With jordan/pippen, it was an undisputed truth that pippen was second fiddle. Even pippen knew that. With Shaq/Kobe, the talent/effectiveness difference between the two was much smaller at times, hence the feuding (did we ever see jordan feuding with pippen??!!). Many a night, Kobe WAS indeed a much better player. With Jordan/Pippen, this was not so.

    At the end of the day, the best player has to clearly be the best performer. Unfortunately for Laker fans hoping for a shaq/kobe dynasty, the best performer was not one man, but an either-or every single night. And both those guys have huge egos.

  33. First, Kobe is too good to be a second fiddle.

    For those who said Kobe should’ve asked Jerry Buss to keep Shaq, remember this: with Shaq’s 30 millions salary and Kobe’s around 15 millions salary, combined with aging teammates, there wouldn’t be great chances to contend anymore. And with Kobe’s own consideration of going to another team, Kobe had no position to interfere with Jerry Buss’ decision.

    Also don’t let the mainstream media sway you so easily. They said Kobe was disliked by all his teammates, peer NBA players, but the actual quotes from many of them suggest the opposite.

    Some said that Kobe didn’t pass to open teammates, but they so easily forgot that he passed to Horry for the winning shot against the Trailblzers and also the shot Horry didn’t make against the Spurs. There were many more examples of this kind.

    People only see what they want to see. Unfortunately, in Kobe’s case, most media types only show us the negative side (sometimes even made up), but put the positive side under the rug.

  34. Mike (#32)- The selfishness-self-centeredness I describe involves the pursuit of maximizing talent, not on-court actions. As a former pro tennis player, though I spent most of my on-court time in satellite tourneys, I was selfish in my pursuit of making it – as are all top-level athletes….

    CallMeCoach(#33) and to Felipe(#35)- I refer to Kobe’s innocence at ages 17-20 – only. How savvy is anyone – truly – at that age? Hell, I was on the tour by then traveling alone, but I wasn’t a “savvy” person. And I’ll go so far as to say that noone is truly savvy at that age. They might think they are (I did) but when they look back on their lives, they realize they weren’t – especially when wrapped in the cocoon of professional sports.

    And to anyone who still believes Kobe somehow orchestrated the Shaq trade: Did you not hear or read that Jerry Buss alone was responsible for the Shaq trade, that that is the primary reason Kobe started talking recently??? Remember? Kobe first spoke about keeping silent for three years about the “Kobe was responsible for the Shaq trade” talk in the press until he was told the story was planted by “someone in the Lakers’ organization.”

    THIS is a perfect example of how mainstream media can sway opinion in a matter of days. The, “Kobe had nothing to do with Shaq’s trade news – including Shaq agreeing with Kobe -” came out first.

    Within two days various reporters around the country began beating that drum again – in spite of the evidence to the contrary, including the Laker organizations silence on Kobe and Shaq’s charges….And here are people commenting here still clinging to the idea that Kobe was responsible for Shaq’s trade.

    What I want to know is when are people going to realize that the media – all media – is responsible for elevating certain people to whatever status and destroying the status of others. And this has as much to do with reporters’ own sheep-like qualities than it does anything else.

    Waaaaaay too many reporters need to be liked by their peers so they remain “in” with their peers. They also feel the need to remain “in” with certain athletes in the hope of getting “the big interview” or book deal with certain athletes. Finally, waaaaaay too many reporters have crossed the ethical line Bill Moyers described so well: how can anyone expect to get the truth from a reporter when the night before he’s having drinks or whatever at an event with that, in Moyers’ case, politician (substitute athlete). there comes a time when a reporter’s allegiances are more toward the athlete or politician than they are disseminating the truth to their readers.

    If a reporter doesn’t cross that line in the first place, the open hate of someone like Kobe could never take place. Neither could the open love for an athlete like Jordan, who, with Shaq and Tiger Woods, are three of the masters at shielding themselves from having their personality warts reported in the media…. Each of them openly tell reporters that they’ll never get another interview of any kind with them if they report something negative about them. However, if reporters keep their distance from athletes in the first place, i.e. do the job of disseminating news to readers and that’s it, athletes could never make those types of demands….

    The reporter is at an event to do a job, not hob-nob….

  35. This is the best article about Kobe i’ve ever seen. But doesnt this mean that Phil Jackson is a Hypocrite??? My other thought is, why should the man be crucified for striving to be great?? Why should he be hated just because he didn’t try to fit in but instead kept his goal in mind and work at it. This is another example on how ugly people can get( Kobe’s older teammates). Plus the funny thing is, it was a shock to Kobe that Shaq hated him. Jealousy breeds hatred.
    Another thing, The league has a superstar Machine which is made of the league, espn analysts, writers, that makes false superstars(Lebron,Arenas, Iverson, McGrady, Vcarter…) yea these guys are good but just because they have 1 great game every 15 or 20 games doesn’t make them superstars.
    -Arenas shoots 41% Fg, yet u have guys like Greg anthony calling him Jordan.
    -Vcarter chokes in every playoffs, can only dunk, sabotage his stats so he can get traded
    -mcGrady has never got out of the first round, has a questionable psyche, doesnt shoot great from the field
    -iverson has a carreer low FG percentage, takes a lot of bad shots and usually misses them, if he had passed to Carmelo more dont u think the nuggets could have beaten the spurs?
    -Lebron will be a superstar, but he’s no michael Jordan, his game doesn’t even ressembles MJ’s. He has one good game in the playoffs and everybody starts crowning him. Dwade is better than him
    ========================================

    A lot of guys around the league hates Kobe Bryant because they think he is too arrogant or cocky. They hate him because they dont have the same backgrounds that he has(he aint from the hood). they think he didnt struggle enough to get here(ex: raja bell).
    ======================================
    My question is have u guys ever watched Kobe with a Basketball? the guy is damn good, probably the best we have right now. The sickest thing i’ve seen kobe was this season at Boston, it was 5 seconds to half time, Dude took a Jump Shot from Midcourt(he didn’t throw, he took a jumper) and he made it.

  36. Lol1 This “Kobe is God” bs, is killing me. Some of you people are embarassing yourselves. But I think this illustrates another reason why Kobe is so widely reviled: his worshipers are an obnoxious bunch.

  37. It’s a solid article, and anyone with cursory NBA knowledge from the period and internet access nows thats pretty much HOW the Lakers dynasty fell. Four men tore it apart and of the four, Kobe had the smallest part (but the most public). Good read.

    One minor quibbling point… Kobe might be “Jordan-esque” but there’s now way he’s as good at generating CLEAN fast break steals in crunch time. If I die with one clear memory of MJ, it will be him stripping the ball from an opposing PG with one clean swipe and dashing in the opposite direction tongue out and eyes bulging. Nobody does that anymore.

  38. Interesting article. I have to agree with some of the comments on here that greatness requires a certain amount of selfishness. you have to want and demand the ball at the end of games. You have to have the desire to be the best in order to have the work ethic that it requires. The only problem I have with the article is that it tries to paint Kobe in a perfect light. Not all the blame goes to Shaq and Jackson. Kobe’s ego is just as big if not bigger than theirs. Kobe knew that as long as he was playing with Shaq that at least in the eyes of the world it would always be Shaq and Kobe. The lakers were shaqs team, and Kobe wanted to be the man and there was no way he was ever going to be percieved as the man as long as Shaq was there. So I don’t think Kobe would have resigned with the lakers if they had extended Shaqs contract, regardless of what Jerry buss’s intentions were. But the blame lies equally with Shaq as well. Shaq was not going to hand the team to Kobe, because his ego would not allow it, just as much as Kobe’s ego would not allow him to be Shaq’s second any longer. What gets me is Kobe’s insistence that all he wants to do is win. Sure he wants to win but his desire to win ultimately stems from his desire to be the “man”. That is all he is really interested in; not that there is anything wrong with that, I think MJ was the same. If you want to see player that is ultimately only interested in winning look at Tim Duncan. He doesn’t care about his public image, he doesn;t need to be known as the man. He will and did gladly step aside and allow Tony Parker to be finals MVP. And when the time comes he will more than gladly pass the team to Parker or whoever rightly deserves. That is what Kobe is not capable of, his ego will not allow it. But neither did Shaqs which why the two couldn’t stay together.

  39. Just wanted to add a couple more things. First MJ had the team around him that allowed him to demand to the “selfish” player. Kobe didn;t when he was playing with Shaq, and now that he can be the “man” he doesn’t have the team to win. Also the difference between Shaq and Kobe is that shaq is the big lovable giant that everyone loves to hate as a basketball player but seemingly is a rather likable guy. Whereas Kobe is introverted and just not as likable (or at lease seemingly since I do not know him personally). And the difference between Mj and Kobe is that MJ had a better crafted persona (which has a lot to do with the media ) then Kobe. Kobe tries but for whatever reason just has not succeeded to point that MJ did.

  40. well, other people might cant accept the fact that kobe bryant is now at his peak, no one can reaches him right now, its like the era of michael jordan, theres a lot of good player at his time, but no one beat him, no one dominated him, same now with kobe bryant, there’s lebron james, dwayne wade, carmelo anthony, this are the future of nba, but the spot lights are with kobe bryant, i’ve watched the game againts the raptors, when he scored 81 pionts, man, he just showed the complete package, fade away jump shots, contested lay ups, in your face dunks, long 3’s, what else can u ask for, all kinds of great shot, he made it, just name it. i just dont exactly know why are there people whos trying to pull him down on where he is right now, KOBE BRYANT is the best player now in the planet, we just cant say the he or MJ is the best of all, MJ is over, we have seen his greatness, its unbelievable, its almost perfect, he is an icon. KOBE BRYANT, he’s just started, he’s just on his way, we have never seen yet of all kobe bryant, as like many people observed, he is a much better shooter, same level when it comes to defense, same form, same style, same position, and yet, many more to come, and he will be the best of the best.
    tnx for giving me the oppotunity to express my thoughts, this is a great article, more power.

  41. shaq is just dreaming, he’s just racing againts the time, co’z he’s close to be over, well infact you cant depend on him when the game is the line, he’l just miss a bunch of free throws, when its crunch time, where did the lakers go all the time, to #24,.

  42. c’mon guys, kobe is the best, you cant compare him other than MJ.
    1, T-mac; he cant depend, he cant finished the season bec. of injuries. he shoots low fg %.
    2, lebron james; he dont shoot well the ball, he cant play defense, he’s off form( compare to kobe/MJ), he’s more on passing, and he cant make big shots coz he’s not a born shooter.
    3, dwade; he’s not a shooter, he more of a piont guard.

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