Heart of a pet

Today I write with a heavy heart. In less than twenty-four hours, your very own Bethlehem Shoals will be grappling with either his first brush with a family Christmas or the possible loss of his favorite cat this side of Tarantula. Yet FreeDarko exists not to bare to you what goes on inside my soul but to, as much as possible, show that feelings about the NBA are people, too.

Robbed of my priceless Chinese and a movie (cliché, maybe, but it’s my own so I call it ritual), and, as any Jew over twelve without children should, placing no stock in the Festival of Lights, to me Christmas is all about basketball. Two years ago, I sat alone in my apartment exulting as LeBron and T-Mac shot the fucking lights out on a national stage. And last season, like everyone else on the planet, I eagerly anticipated Shaq/Kobe more for the pre- and post-game interactions than the game itself. Now, despite finding myself a few ringer prayers away from a fantasy football title, I find myself again fixated on Kobe/Shaq, wondering if I’m not about to witness short-form history in the making.

Like the last go-round, the final score should be an afterthought. The kid with the Troubled Smile can drop a hundred, and still there’s no way that Shaq, Wade, and the reform school of former All-Star’s that the Heat copped over the summer can not walk away with a decisive victory. I also know full well that nothing that happens at mid-court can warm over the shattered romance that is Big Daddy and his first, and still finest, Robin (the miscast, Chris O’Donnell-ish one); despite Kobe having professed last week that he’d like things to be better, he fully admits, and I think we all know, that for them it’s a done deal. They’ll be civil at some Lakers ceremonies when Shaq retires, even cordial at the Hall of Fame banquets. For now, though, they’re more concerned with their respective teams seasons—the rare case where the “I’m just trying to get us into the playoffs” isn’t just a tossed-off reflex—than the cosmic dilemma that is Shaq and Kobe, Kobe and Shaq.

Their relationship, though, has never really been about them as individuals, or even the fate of the Lakers. It’s been a media circus that gained enough traction to survive as folk legend. I’m tempted to say that it’s here, and not in any culture wars showdown involving Iverson, the dress code, or Big Ron, that fans have staked out truly original territory of this-and-that dichotomy in today’s Association. Because while these other conflicts are for the most part pantomimes of American society’s daily toils, Kobe/Shaq really, truly originates in sport as we know it.

The battle lines are all too familiar at this point. Shaq: beloved by all, consummate gentleman, media darling, Bunyan-like folk hero, history being written from the minute he entered the league, laughing with us through his troubles; Kobe: mysterious, awkward, uncomfortably deliberate, stalking greatness with a predatory zeal, so frightening in his perfection that it makes us feel safe when he stumbles. Shaq, unambiguous, candid, making his own way through the game; Kobe, murky, derivative, so hopelessly referential that you worry it’s a crutch. That the world should relate more readily to Goliath than a middle-class kid who worked his ass off to earn his place among the sport’s fine tyrants is a testament to just how off-putting his whole steez can be.

I’m on record, more times over than the sky can hold, as being a Kobe guy. He’s the tragic figure, anti-hero, and mighty parable that, as someone who spent most of high school fighting my way through Russian novels, I’m pretty much predisposed to root for. And while I like Shaq as much as the next guy, he seems like someone I’m far more interested in telling my grandseed about than I am pulling for in the here and now. Never mind the night and day differences in what they do on the court; to me, Kobe is a far more compelling, and thus sympathetic, figure than the Big Bob Hope.

The problem is, siding with Kobe wears a person out. It’s not just that it can get uncomfortable, like when Bryant’s endless politicizing rings hollow, his play borders on flippant, and, of course, when he gets away with sexual assault. More that I get the feeling that I’ve taken an indefensible position and have the whole world not just against me, but either embarrassed by or smugly dismissive of me. See, Kobe’s not like Iverson—there’s no glory in his struggles, no real rebellious cause. He’s an asshole, plain and simple, one whose numerous shortcomings as a person shouldn’t have to come with his unshakable basketball genius. Sometimes I worry that I’m not actually supporting Kobe, but harping on the parts of him that, were he to ever grow up, he’d leave behind faster than you can say “Sheed on the Blazers.”

But that might be exactly why I’m so stuck on Kobe—for better or worse, I know that there’s no separating the greatness from the pettiness, the sublime from the groan-inducing, the rat from the falcon. I like a good anthem as much as the next man, and I’d put lo-fi, gutter-level intensity in that same category. With Kobe, though, it’s exactly the mundane and seemingly superfluous parts of him that work to make him mighty, threaten even to swallow the good stuff alive. Shaq doesn’t have this problem, since from day one he’s been a legend in the making, and a totally one-sided one at that. Ask me to choose between the voluminously sacred and the naggingly profane, though, and I’ll have an answer for you before you even tell me why you’re asking.


At 12/24/2005 1:43 PM, Anonymous aug said...

Don't forget about Penny as his first robin. Living in orlando at the time, there was lots of kobe-esque problems there and orlando natives were forced to choose sides. The magic organization manipulated the story of shaq leaving and turned him into an evil money grubbing monster, so everyone sided with penny.

This situation was different because i think shaq learned from the orlando incident and didn't want it to happen again. So he went on the offensive calling out the organization and kobe before they had a chance to. Becauase of how likable shaq is, he got the media on his side and all of a sudden it's kobe who brought about the fall of the lakers. Not the bad free agent moves, shaq's declining play and shape, and salary cap problems.

I am and will always root for Kobe over shaq. Which isn't to say that i don't root for shaq all the time. He's a great guy. Not just in interviews or when chasing down gay bashers. When he was filming some movie in my neighborhood a couple years ago, he couldn't have been a nicer guy. He stayed so long after hew as done filming a 20 second scene and made sure to sign every autograph, pose for every picture and shake every hand. Twice. He even threw the football around with me and the rest of the kids, and was a great guy. I can't picture kobe doing that in the same situation. I picture him growing weary of the adoration and constant nagging to pose, sign or play and leaving eventually. Shaq, a big kid as he is often called, plays the role rather well. Kobe's game and story however is just too likable for me. Plus, he has the tightest game of anyone in the association. He's pure poetry out there. I think it also has to do with his role as the anti-hero as shoals said. I've always had a thing for anti-heros in literature from the underground man, to dean moriarty, to hank chinaski. There's something alluring about them.

At 12/25/2005 12:13 PM, Blogger Brickowski said...

i think i liked this post as much as anything i've ever read on the site.

At 12/26/2005 6:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If having Riley back means that Wade has to regress into being a role player again, I don't think I want any.

At 12/27/2005 10:44 AM, Blogger emynd said...

I still don’t really know how I feel about Kobe.

One minute, I’ll voice incomprehensible hatred for the man and yet, the next, I feel extremely sorry for the poor soul. Take for example the All-Star game in Philly where his “hometown crowd” decided to boo him. For a half a second I reveled in it, but then I felt incredibly sorry for the dude: “Aw man. What did he do to deserve this? So what? He’s from Lower Merrion and that’s not exactly ‘Philly.’ So what? He plays for the Lakers. This is the effin’ All-Star game… have some respect for the poor guy.” And then, after the pictures of Kobe crying after losing to the Spurs? For a half a day I delighted in his misery and even considered making T-Shirts with the pictures, but then I looked at that picture more closely, and looked deep into my soul and asked “How can you hate on a man that wants to win so much he’s gonna cry when he loses?” Regrettably, I was even slightly happy to hear that Kobe might be guilty of “rape.” I mean, seriously, what the eff is that? Why do I dislike this guy so much that I was HAPPY to hear that he might go to jail for 20+ years? I mean, it’s the nature of sports to hate certain players irrationally and love others with equal ardency and irrationality, but what exactly is it about Kobe that makes him so easy to hate? And what is it that makes it so easy for me to just-as-quickly feel extremely bad about this hate and then suddenly feel a great deal of compassion for the guy?

I never felt compassion for Jordan. I just hated him. I never felt compassion for Karl Malone. I just hated him. John Stockton? Hated him. Why is it so hard for me to hate Kobe the way I hated those Hall of Famers?

Is it just that I can empathize with his inability to do ANYTHING (on or off the court) without it being a wholly self-conscious act that is uniquely cognizant that the world is watching? Or does my hatred of him give way to compassion so often because my hatred is based on nothing more than something like jealousy (he is, after all, one of the first players that I sort’ve realized is around my age and is quite a bit more “successful” than I am)? Is he my generations marker for what we could’ve been and/or wanted to be when we were running around playing basketball in 8th grade? Or is there just something about his carelessly cocky persona that just rubs me the wrong way? The way he smirks and attempts to say all the “right things” in the post-game interviews? It’s absolutely nauseating to me. Or is it his game? Is there something in his “style” that just makes me want to punch him in the mother-effing face every time he throws up one of his no-arch-having jumpers (that somehow goes in pretty frequently), only to realize after punching the poor fella that he totally didn’t deserve it?

I dunno what it is but watching Shaq walk right by Kobe without as much as acknowledging his existence this past Sunday still has me feeling sick. At least acknowledge the poor guy’s existence!

I dunno.


At 12/27/2005 12:41 PM, Blogger mutoni said...

Anyone who doesn't love Kobe (the ballplayer) doesn't love the game. Pure and simple.
His personality should have nothing to do with it. He's a first ballot Hall of Famer, end of story.
Have any of us ever spoken to him, ever really gotten to know him as a person? Of course not. All we know about him is what is printed in the LA Times, those ridiculously awkward press conferences, and those god-awful interviews with the immortal Jim Gray.

The media creates people, icons, whatever you want to call them. MJ was the most revered and beloved athlete ever, yet he was also unquestionably the most raveneously-obsessed individual when it came to winning. Jeff Van Gundy called him a con artist. Jason Williams (the murderer) once told Esquire magazine that Mike often told players who dared cross him on the court to meet him after the game in the parking log to settle beefs. Read Sam Smith's The Jordan Rules and you'll get a clearer picture of how ruthless he was. Yet, yet none of this ever got in the way of the amazing PR machine Nike and the NBA created for him and that turned him into a demi-god.

Kobe Bryant, more than any athlete perhaps, needs to write a book, so that we can actually get to know the guy. He's by far the most misunderstood athlete of my lifetime. When discussing him with friends I often compare him to Ted Williams. Teddy Ballgame was incredibly polarizing, what with his bull-headed drive to become "The Greatest Hitter that ever lived", his refusal to play the media game with the boston scribes, his refusal to please his fans (eg. tipping his cap, coming out for curtain calls) made him incredibly unpopular across the country and of course Joe Dimaggio was right there to pick up the adulation from the scribes and fans alike. It's the same thing with Kobe, he's disliked for things that don't happen between the white lines (in other words, the things that don't matter).

Kobe, like Williams, wanted to be considered the Greatest Ever at the end of his playing days and went about it "the wrong way" and this rubs people the wrong way. He told us (as a 17 year old out of Lower Merion High) that he was taking HIS TALENTS to the NBA as if he was doing the league a service. In other words, he didn't have PR people around him (just look at those shades he was wearing at the press conference announcing his draft declaration).
We can't fault the man for not knowing how to play the PR game, that's not his job. His job is to be a ball player, and as far as I'm concerned he's done that job as well as anyone in the game's history. What more could we possibly ask for?

At 12/27/2005 1:29 PM, Anonymous bfnh said...

the truest part about this whole thing -- kobe is an indefensible asshole. all the "he doesn't know how to play the pr game," "his 'home town' booed him," "i felt his tears..." blah blah still doesn't erase that smirk.

it's the smirk people. that is the sly smile of an asshole, one who's on court talents will never raise him above that evil devilish turn of the lip.

i am also of the belief that kb8 may have a body or two in his basement. there is no doubt in my mind that kobe has tasted human flesh, enjoyed the experience, and looks forward to his next nibble.

At 12/27/2005 3:15 PM, Blogger emynd said...


You obviously don't "love the game"!


At 12/27/2005 4:06 PM, Blogger The Electric Zarko said...

For a brief second, I thought that "Big Ron" was a Ron Atkinson reference.

At 12/27/2005 5:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Anyone who doesn't love Kobe (the ballplayer) doesn't love the game."


I appreciate the game, but I don't love Kobe the ballplayer. I don't automatically love anyone who is good or dominant (I have no love for Bob Petit, Elvin Hayes, Wes Unseld, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, World B. Free, David Thompson, Andrian Dantley, Mark Aguirre, Brad Daugherty, Ralpy Sampson, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson). I don't know why I need to justify my dislike of Kobe - but I think it is the "I know I'm good, you know I'm good, I know you know I'm good smirk".

But the game? It's amazing. I once got into an hour long discussion/argument with KG, Chauncey Billups, KG's agent, KG's money manager and my intern about who you'd rather have on your team. (this was pre-Colorado, pre-Jackson book, pre-sending Shaq away Kobe)

KG, KG's people and my intern all took TMac. KG's reasoning was - TMac gives you everything that Kobe does but at 2" taller and a lot longer legs, arms. Everything - but in a bigger package.

Chauncey's response - "But you ain't have to guard them motherfuckers. TMac's nice . .. but Kobe's cold" And that's all Chauncey would say for the next 40 minutes. "Kobe's cold."

Still, I can't get behind 8 - listen to this knowledge. "Always get your weakest player involved.' If you get that guy to score, to make
plays, get rebounds, everything else will fall into place." - Oscar Robertson " I don't think Kobe ever learned that. It took Jordan until 90 or 91 to learn that.

Magic & Bird knew that instinctivly.

At 12/27/2005 5:36 PM, Blogger mutoni said...

I'm not sure I buy into this argument that Kobe doesn't make his teammates better, for the simple reason that I don't think Magic or Bird ever MADE anyone into a good player. They were always surrounded by good and sometimes great players (ie. Kareem, Byron Scott, Cooper, McHale, Parish, DJ) and those players fed off their greatness. Now, I'm sorry but there is no way on God's green earth that you can turn a Devean George into a good player, it cannot be done, not by Jordan, Magic, Bird or God himself. When Kobe had talent around him, he was widely and justily considered the best player in the game and he used that talent to win 3 titles. You simply can't turn awful players (the current Lakers) into good players by yourself, they have to be willing to put in the work to get better or simply have to blessed with undeniable talent. He's still the best in the league for the fact that he can score whenever he wants and will give any opposing 2-guard fits at the defensive end all night. Just ask T-MAC.

Jordan didn't turn Pippen into a great player, Pippen made himself into a Hall of Famer, sure he learned from $ but he more than played his part. It's the same thing when people refuse to include Allen Iverson in the Greatest Players Ever argument because he never won a title. How can you not put that guy into the same class as those who were fortunate enough to play with teammates talented enough to win a championship? Considering what he's been able to do with the limited amount of talent around him, it's ludicrous not to include him in the argument.

Jordan won titles not because he made Ho Grant and co. better but because Phil Jackson installed an offense that could fully utilise the talent around Mike and those players came into their own. Jordan was still the same player, simply his teammates became better through coaching, practice and a better understanding of the team game.

At 12/28/2005 5:32 AM, Anonymous Uzair said...

Last night, T-Mac had 21 and 5 assists in the first half, then *left* so he could be there for his fiancee who had gone into labour. You'd never see Kobe do that (not just cos he's committed, but because for some cosmic reason his wife would never go into labour during a game).

I haven't seen the Mamba grin recently, and I really do think he's trying to be less of a jerk. Even so, he knows he's good (and you do too -- don't deny it) and it does leak out every now and then. I can believe that's just the mentality of a dominant sportsman shining through, and I'm sure MJ made silly comments when he was playing too.

What Kobe/PJ are doing with the team that they have is phenomenal. Kwame has proved himself a total waste of time, and I can't fault Kobe for not 'making him better'. I do think Kobe's at fault for stifling Odom, who has the tool and only lacks the mentality. That's a guy Kobe should be actively moulding into a bigger, better Pippen. Maybe it'll come with time...

Then again, with time, maybe all this won't happen. I've been watching LeBron recently, and I'm just plain scared. If he doesn't go down the KG route of ridiculous-physical-specimen-who-just-can't-seem-to-win, I think all this Kobe talk might end up being a moot point. He needs to tighten up his defense, get smarter and more ruthless (can that be learned?), but the dude's just a freight train. He's s the Shaq of SGs/SFs. I've rated Wade as high as LeBron before, but give the King a couple years and he might just be completely unstoppable.

(BTW, the other problem with Kobe is -- he's got much less time than MJ did. MJ did his learning/maturing/finding-a-sidekick between 21 and 25; Kobe's only starting now, at 27! I'm worried about this.)

At 12/28/2005 10:23 AM, Blogger emynd said...

Now, I'm sorry but there is no way on God's green earth that you can turn a Devean George into a good player, it cannot be done, not by Jordan, Magic, Bird or God himself.

I completely disagree with this. I think Devean George is a very capable role player who someone like Kobe simply HASN'T made better. Of course, Devean George isn't the greatest example of this, but--as Uzair has pointed out--what about someone like Odom? He's widely regarded as one of the most talented players in his position. Someone like Magic, Bird, or Jordan would DEFINITELY get him involved at a much larger degree than he is now. You can fault Odom's humble personality all you want, but someone like Jordan would've been up in his face absolutely demanding he play a larger role. The only reason that Odom isn't playing the Pippen role is because Kobe isn't playing a type of game that will allow this. Thus, I do think you can justly criticize Kobe for not "making his teammates better."

But, let's be real here, if we accept the notion that the NBA is a "league of Stars" and a "game of Style," it's probably no surprise that the reason we harbor this resentment for Kobe has very little to do with the type of game that he plays but more so with the "how" he plays the game that he does play: with the aforementioned smirk of smug, over-privileged superiority. And, make no mistake about it, I think Kobe's upper-middle-class status is definitely at play here.

He's NOT a struggling kid from the 'hood who came up from nothing. He's the son of a professional basketball player; a kid who happens to speak Italian because he was privileged enough to live in Italy while his dad played ball there and yet flosses this in commercials as if he's some cosmopolitan savante; he grew up in the upper-middle class suburbs of Philly; and came into the game with an unmatched confidence and arrogance. There's nothing wrong with "privilege" per ce (especially considering that many of us--including myself--who criticize Kobe are themselves "privileged"), but what is offensive is when this "privileged"-ness turns into a sense of entitlement. His confidence didn't demand respect, but reaked of superiority and the unmistakable aura of entitlement that comes with privilege. It's easy to root against the kind of guy who you feel like hasn't faced any "real" adversity.

But, my question was: if it's so easy for me to root against him, how come I have such a hard time rooting against him the way I did utterly hatable players like Karl Malone? Perhaps it's because he HAS finally faced this adversity: losing instead of dominating; the rape trial; being booed by fans from his hometown; trying to earn back the support of his fans, but failing at the PR work.

I never considered Kobe a particularly sympathetic character... that is, until now.


At 12/28/2005 11:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While there might be some truth to the resentment of Kobe as a priviliaged player - why not the same flow of hatred towards players like Grant Hill or Jason Kidd who came from decidedly upper class backgrounds (well Grant is the scion of a pro athlete and don't let JKidd's "Oakland" roots fool you - he's from the decidedly affulent area of Alameda. He may have played on the playgrounds of Oak-town, but the East Bay isn't all about Too $hort, Isiah Rider and GP. They got nice houses there too.)

It's the arrogance.

Here's my point - point the wayback machine toward 1987 . . . and listen to what people (including a 7th grade version of me) had to say about Jordan. Except for the rape charges (and the ones about forcing the best center of his era to another team) - the commentary towards Kobe sounds awfully similar to the commentary towards the pre-Championship Jordan.

And yes, I never changed my mind about Jordan either. I still think he is an arrogant jerk who doesn't do much to involve his teammates. He won by the force of his transcendant talent and indomitable will. Give me the Bird and Magic version of involving one's teammates.

I'll grant you that involving Worthy, McHale, Scott and Ainge is a lot easier than involving Wennington and Sellers - but Magic once got Rambis 27 points in a playoff game. You think Kobe would look to get Brown 27 points?

Me neither.


At 12/28/2005 6:59 PM, Anonymous illwafer said...

great comments.

shoals, sorry to hear about your cat. i don't think of anything that could be more difficult...

the strangest thing happened to me while watching the game on christmas. i was rooting for the lackers (kobe), and i have never done that in my life. at the end of the game i was getting upset with the lackers for not giving it to kobe earlier on the last possession.

i find myself becoming more empathetic with kobe, and i don't know why. i guess he is on a horrible team, and he's been asked to "make everyone better", when that really isn't his job. odom will never be a great player. he is mentally soft and is rarely up to the challenge. there is no one else close to kobe or odom on that team as far as talent goes.

so it came down to kobe against the heat, rather than just vs shaq. who wouldn't root for the underdog? the heat are absolutely loaded, yet the lackers took them down the final shot.

At 12/29/2005 2:46 AM, Anonymous futuristxen said...

Kobe is the Michael Jackson of basketball. If his dad had raised him to be a man instead of a prodigy, he probably wouldn't be being brought up on sexual assault charges, and probably wouldn't creep people out so damn much.

As far as I'm concerned there has never been a singular season/reason to be a Kobe fan. When he was just getting started, you should have been an Iverson fan. When he peaked with the Lakers, there was always T-Mac playing just as good, if not better, but not having Shaq. And now you have Lebron James and Dwayne Wade, both of whom make Kobe look like a useless chucker.

We thought the days of smart efficient basketball were gone. That Jordan's shooting percentages could never be duplicated in the modern era. We accepted the notion of the volume shooter with Iverson, Kobe, and T-Mac. Well those days are over. Lebron James is shooting over 50 percent on the year and averaging nearly as many points as Kobe. And Dwayne Wade has been good for over 45 percent for his entire career.

Kobe Bryant understands how to play the game for himself. He does not understand how to play with others. He's in that rare sect of players who make possible the idea of the selfish-assist. Kobe never passes because the game situation dictates it. Or because he geniunely understands that in the long run it is for the best. He only passes to prove that he's not selfish.

I think you're trying to toying with the idea that Kobe is the cool kind of loner, when he's really the John Wayne Gacy type of loner. The man has a serious dysfunction with how he relates to the rest of the world.

At 12/29/2005 4:04 AM, Anonymous Uzair said...

Wow, futuristxen, that's some strong stuff. And *every word* is true. But c'mon, you can't really throw that Kobe/Michael Jackson analogy out there without giving us equivalents for MJ, Bird and Magic ;)

At 12/29/2005 8:27 AM, Blogger Ken said...

Kobe is named after a steak. Just remember that when you are in awe of him or pissed at him cause he just elbowed Mike Miller on some hockey shit then lost the game for his team. What do you expect? He is named after a steak.

At 12/29/2005 8:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When has Kobe ever produced anything as singularily brillant as 'Thriller' - nevermind 'Off the Wall'

Kobe's a lot more like Bobby Brown - sure 'My Perogative' and 'Humpin' Around' were great singles - much like his 62 point game last week - but they broke up New Edition much too quickly.

The rest is easy - Vanessa is bat-shit crazy Whitney, "Being Bobby Brown" is obviously "The Last Season".


At 12/29/2005 11:03 AM, Anonymous Uzair said...

Camby's out with a broken pinkie. Why does that not surprise me? 6'11" and a broken pinkie stops him.

At 12/29/2005 11:34 AM, Anonymous aug said...

I still don't see why kobe's gets so much flack for selfishness when jordan did the same thing before he got teamed with a good coach, system and better players. Kobe had all of that earlier in his career instead of later like jordan. He made great use of it putting up good stats, hitting big shots, and playing within the system. I think by playing above .500 ball Kobe is doing an amazing job carrying the lakers. Deavon George is not good nor will he ever be. Nobody on that team besides Odom would ever start on any other team, and most wouldn't even be in the top 10 on a rotation. Like someone said, Odom will never be a great player like pippen or even an all star, probably not even a boderline all star. Which is too bad because as i've said a couple times, i love odom. He's one of my top 5 favorite players in the nba. Maybe his mind is soft from the ganj, maybe he's just not mentally tough, maybe he's not as talented as everyone thought. I don't know, but he's at the point in his career where i really don't see him stepping it up to the next level anymore. I still hope every game i watch that i'm seeing his breakout performance though. I guess it doesn't matter because people who hate Kobe, will always hate Kobe and nothing can change that. Even when he does something amazing like carry one of the worse playoff(if the season ended now) teams in recent memory, he's selfish, should pass to chris mihm and kwame more so they can miss more shots in the paint than any big tandem i can think of. I don't really care, and i don't think phil jackson cares much either because if they get in the playoffs, who knows, kobe averaging 40-50?

P.S. My man Diaw finally stopped being unselfish to a fault the other night, attacked the basket and dropped 31. I can't wait till he puts up the points on a regular basis to go along with the rest of his incredible game.

At 12/29/2005 11:55 AM, Blogger emynd said...

I guess it doesn't matter because people who hate Kobe, will always hate Kobe and nothing can change that.

Apparently that's not true because I used to hate him but (and apparently Illwafer is at least partially with me on this) now I sympathize with him and even kind've root for him (I say "kind've" because my decision to root for him is pretty context-driven).

Also, dude, let's not forget that Jordan got "flack" his entire career for his "selfishness." He just won so god damn much--and with such passion and (often disgusting) competitiveness--it was hard to really fault him for it.


At 12/29/2005 1:26 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

live and direct from cashville with an update and some typically tangential thoughts:

the cat is back; thank you holidays.

and on odom: i am realizing that i'm in full agreement with the idea that he'll never be all that. and fine with it, since he's got "enigma" written all over home, maybe with "tantalizing" scribbled off to the side. i'm fine with that, though, since at this point it's useless to be frustrated by odom or label him a tease. he is what he is, and you've got to appreciate what you get, wonder ominously about why there's not more, and take it all as a magical sideshow to kobe's weirdness.

it's diaw who might actually be pippen 2. i joked in our euro guide way back when that those comparison marked the absolute high point (low point?) of the upside era in scouting, but he's really, really impressive. and unlike odom, it's not just some disjointed freak show that only makes sense in the stat line.

his game might not be as seamless as pippen's, or LeBron's, but when you watch him play he does it all with no hitch--he's like a different, supremely confident guy in every role he takes on. and i think this has as much to do with that nash-centric offense and his place in it as what he's ultimately capable of. he seems much more suited for what odom's being asked to do than odom, who's best as a faulty first option, not a strong second.

(and i may even be underestimating diaw in that respect, since i can't really say i've made a point of watching the suns this year)

makes you wonder what some of these other languishing euros might be capable of if teams were willing to admit the embarassment of that era and give them a second chance, instead of stashing them away and preteneding that the whole international fever never happened.

At 12/29/2005 3:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

makes you wonder what some of these other languishing euros might be capable of if teams were willing to admit the embarassment of that era and give them a second chance



At 12/29/2005 3:39 PM, Blogger mutoni said...

"I still don't see why kobe's gets so much flack for selfishness when jordan did the same thing before he got teamed with a good coach, system and better players. Kobe had all of that earlier in his career instead of later like j
Jordan. He made great use of it putting up good stats, hitting big shots, and playing within the system. I think by playing above .500 ball Kobe is doing an amazing job carrying the lakers. Deavon George is not good nor will he ever be. Nobody on that team besides Odom would ever start on any other team, and most wouldn't even be in the top 10 on a rotation. Like someone said, Odom will never be a great player like pippen or even an all star, probably not even a boderline all star."

I couldn't agree more. That's the thing with the haters, they fail to recognize how much Kobe had to harness his enormous talents and play the team game in order to win those 3 titles. Mike never had to do that until he was provided by management with enough talent to truly win. That's why I believe the Kobe/MJ comparisons still have validity, just a bit backwards. Kobe was given support early and won. Mike, just the opposite.

A good article on this subject is the cover story of Dime magazine a few years ago when Shaq was still in Hollywood,
here's a selected quote from the magazine (http://www.dimemag.com/feature.asp?id=1819):

At one point, the man tells a story about Michael Jordan, about something the icon mentioned when he noticed his young counterpart’s secondary role behind Shaquille O’Neal.

“Michael was like, ‘I don’t know what the hell I would do if I had to do that,’” the man says. Then he erupts into a deep, sort of drained laughter that makes it sound as if he, like many of us, once wondered the same thing. And that’s it. That’s where his story becomes so complicated and so clear, so different from so many others. The first question in Kobe Bryant’s career was whether he could control his own tendency for individual showmanship and learn to lead a team toward a common goal. The second question was whether he could learn to maintain that form of leadership while ultimately submitting control of the offense to the Lakers’ leader by default, Shaquille O’Neal. Having shown fans, critics, and teammates (who are both fans and critics) that he could accomplish both of those tasks, the third question stands ominously in front of the entire Lakers organization. How much longer can the team afford to follow O’Neal before it becomes apparent that the responsibility should be given to Bryant?

The rest is obviously history, but this goes to show just how much the tide has turned against Kobe. People knew how much he was a team player when they were winning titles and he was deffering to O'neal. Then Shaq asked for too much money, was run out of town by Jerry Buss (Who confirmed this a few weeks ago in the LA Times) and the team was broke n up. Now that the team is struggling, the haters are rejoicing and taking advantage. It's cool though, the fans still love Kobe, he's no.2 in All-Star voting right behind Yao as of today (which really means, he's no.1 if you think of the socio-political implications regarding Yao's votes).

At 12/29/2005 3:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

which really means, he's no.1 if you think of the socio-political implications regarding Yao's votes)

I am sick to death about hearing this. Yao has won the PAPER VOTES the last three years. Shaq actually won the internet voting for Yao's first two years (when they were both in the West) - so your implied "Yao only wins because he gets all the Chinese votes online" is complete doo-doo.

As to Yao deserving the votes - that's a different arguement - but check your facts. Yao isn't in the All-Star game because he carries an entire nation's electoral votes - he's in the All-Star game because he has across the board popularity.

At 12/29/2005 4:31 PM, Anonymous blob said...

During the championship years, Jordan was the number one option, augmented by Pippen, Grant, Rodman, etc. Kobe, as was stated, was the number two during the Lakers' run, second to Shaq, who was in his prime and who won Finals MVP a couple of times. Maybe instead of saying that "Kobe was given support early and won" we should say that Shaq was given support. The comparison to MJ becomes problematic then, because we haven't seen a team built around Kobe that can dominate the way the Bulls did. In any case, I agree that widespread hatred of Kobe comes from that smug arrogance that he carries himself with (as you can see I am a hater). He is the anti-Tupac, the opposite of people's champs such as Big Ben or AI, yet I think that he is sincerely trying to become that gritty, tough player that people love. His latest comments re: the Mike Miller incident follow:

"Any player that was going to come down the lane at that point in time, I was going to let him know that he just can't walk through there," Bryant said. "I think we as a team have to do a better job of establishing that. And me, as a leader of the ballclub, I've got to take the initiative to do that -- and hopefully, everybody will see that."

This is just uncharateristic of what Kobe's whole game is all about, as he is clearly not the enforcer type ala Bill Lambier or Anthony Mason. Still he is trying to wear this mask in an attempt to garner more public favor.

At 12/29/2005 4:38 PM, Blogger The Electric Zarko said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 12/29/2005 4:41 PM, Blogger The Electric Zarko said...

A co-worker just claimed that Kobe will win his way back into the hearts of fans through Olympic glory.

At first glance, this isn't so unreasonable. Kobe seems like the kind of player, unlike Richard Jefferson and Marbury, whose game will translate to the international stage. And seeing Kobe with the American flag and the gold medal would have to be an image boost, right?

The first problem that I have with this is that I don't think the US public is infatuated with international basketball as we've been led to believe. It was fine to watch the Dream Team whoop on all and sundry; now that the games are actually competitive, we're hitting a wall where the game seems strange and alien and worse, it becomes something that has been changed from what we know is the best (the NBA) and with the result of what we 'know' is the best (the USA) is not actually winning. Which makes it seem false, as well as a corruption of something True.

The second issue is that for all the good it could do for Kobe, the risk of not winning is far more damaging. As much as the last Olympic team cemented Starbury's reputation for selfish play, seeing Kobe gunning away, sniping at teammates and losing with a 'stronger' team than we brought last time would go a long way towards applying a permanent brand of being a me-first player who rode to his titles on the back of the most dominant center of all time.

I'm intrigued by Kobe because the way his career has played out, the way circumstances have piled up, there's no way to tell whether he's a bum or misunderstood (in the sense of his game). Is he a selfish player or just a great player stuck with a team that he has to carry by himself? Honestly, there's no real way to settle the decision one way or another. Mystery, as always, is the key to fascination.

(Sorry for the double post and subsequent deletion -- needed to make some edits, curse my itchy trigger finger.)

At 12/29/2005 11:36 PM, Blogger mutoni said...

"I am sick to death about hearing this. Yao has won the PAPER VOTES the last three years. Shaq actually won the internet voting for Yao's first two years (when they were both in the West) - so your implied "Yao only wins because he gets all the Chinese votes online" is complete doo-doo."

Um, you are aware that the NBA handed out paper voting slips around the world, right? China is not exactly the most wired of countries and if you don't think the people in that country filled out those paper slips at an alarming rate, you're nuts. Yao is going to be a leading vote getter as long as he's in the league because of where he comes from, or at least until a halfway-decent player from India shows up in the next decade or two.

At 12/30/2005 8:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Um, you are aware that the NBA handed out paper voting slips around the world, right?

Actually they don't. I worked for the NBA for 4 years - 3 of them in the NBA Asia office in Hong Kong. I know of what I speak.

The only place you can use paper ballots to vote for the NBA All-Star game are from movie theatres and NBA arenas. We 100% never collected paper ballots in China (or anywhere overseas).

So you can keep your "um."


At 12/30/2005 8:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You don't have to take my word for it. Here it is straight from the source:

From December 1, 2005 through January 22, 2006, fans can vote for their NBA All-Stars in Loews, Cineplex Odeon, Magic Johnson, and Star Theatres across the United States. To locate a Loews Cineplex Theatre location near you, please visit enjoytheshow.com.

NBA All-Star Balloting takes place in all NBA arenas from November 18, 2005 through January 22, 2006. Fans can pick up a ballot from any ballot box throughout the arena, or at the balloting headquarters in each arena's concourse area.

Now, to my knowledge - aside from Toronto - none of those NBA arenas nor those movie theatres located across the United States - happen to be overseas.


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