Ambivalence Towards Kobe Bryant

Just as the NHL got a dream match up to boost their ratings, the NBA finalists have now been declared and networks probably couldn’t have scripted a better set up: The Boston Celtics against the L.A. Lakers. Surely in the lead up, we’re going to see many old clips of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, and I admittedly will be one of those soaking up the nostalgia and memories past. There is no hesitancy in throwing myself in the corner of Magic and trying to live through his leadership, unselfishness, and passion for the game.

As for today, and Kobe Bryant, I don’t know what to feel? I won’t know until tip off of Game 1, but I think I am leaning towards cheering for the Celtics even though I have never supported them in the past. They are still the Lakers, the colors of their famous jerseys still the same, but why can’t I see myself jumping into Kobe’s arms like the way I used to imagine myself in Magic’s embrace? With Kobe, it’s definitely look before you leap. Think twice, three times, even more, before committing, if ever. Why?

Well, he definitely seems much matured from even a season ago and certainly from during his championship years with Shaquille O-Neal. Perhaps he realizes that he is hitting his peak age soon, and it won’t be long until his enormous physical skills slowly start to elude him. Perhaps it is this urgency that makes him realize the foolishness to waste time on egos, images, incessant complaining, and instead utilize his immense skills before the window of opportunity passes. Or perhaps, players just learn as they get older to be better teammates, more unselfish, and see the bigger picture without wasting energy resisting the little things.

Still, however, I can’t help but question the reasons for his dramatic turn. Why does he look so happy, at ease with himself, relaxed, and so supportive of his teammates? Is this his maturity or is it because his current teammates wouldn’t dare stand up to him or take too much of the spotlight away from him? Certainly none of them have the stature that Shaq would command.

And is it because the rest of the Lakers usually defer to Kobe as the undisputed leader and superstar that allows Kobe to express to the media that the team is a family of brothers? What happens when there comes an intense moment in the final when a teammate, or another brother, wants to take center stage for the betterment of the team? Would Kobe be okay with this? Will there be resistance? What happens when they come across adversity and a brother is in disagreement with Kobe? This will be a truer test of Kobe’s new found maturity and development.

Kobe, has on more than one occasion hinted quite directly that the past championship Laker teams were quite dysfunctional. Was this a shot at Shaq? And is he implying that if they win this year, it would be a ‘functional’ win, or a more meaningful win to him personally because he was able to do it his way? Does ‘functional’ mean Kobe being at the helm? And does ‘dysfunctional’ mean sharing co-star roles with Shaq?
Is this also partly why Kobe is so effusive in his praise of his current teammates, to heighten the contrast from previous years, and to prove he can lead a team to a championship without Shaq’s help?

In the end, maybe I’m reading too much into it, and it really doesn’t matter as long as the team wins. Maybe I am being overly critical, as perhaps Kobe is the great superstar that he is because he wants to be in control, in a position to exert his dominance, and create circumstances and surroundings that allow him to successfully express his talent. He would probably want to fail on his terms rather than have the ball taken out of his hands and risk losing because he didn’t instill his will.

I really don’t know what to feel anymore. Is it fair to say I would love him on my team, but maybe not as a brother? I don’t know if that is my conclusion or not. I really don’t know. It is not easy being a sports fan and watching a game can lead one to be torn in many directions. That is why I absolutely love sports!

Enjoy the Finals!

-Patrick Law

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Ambivalence Towards Kobe Bryant

  1. I will be cheering on the Lakers for two very strong reasons. 1.) I can’t stand the Celtics because of their location proximity to the Patriots… *Gag* As a semi-rabid fan of the San Diego Chargers, it goes against everything I know, to cheer for any sporting team in a negative region. 2.) Hubby is a crazed Lakers fan. I need the Lakers to win in order to keep the Zen level in our home.

  2. Betme, my friends would love you. They also purposely cheer against anything in the proximity of the Patriots. I am a Patriots fan, and took a beating after the Super Bowl.
    As for your husband, do you mean the Zen between you and him, or the Phil Jackson philosophy of Zen?
    Sports is definitely a full-time effort….
    -patrick

  3. I’m not sure if being located near the Patriots is a reasonable reason to hate the Celtics, but I am a die hard win or lose Broncos fan…who also likes the Chargers…makes no sense, eh? Isn’t it interesting how personal dislikes and likes of the players and their attitudes can influence us almost more than their performance…hmmm, I think that is how we usually choose our political candidates. It has nothing to do with their performance usually, just personality and looks. Of course, the informed voters are out there, but then so are the informed sports fans…but still…

  4. Sheri,
    I agree with you that sometimes other factors beyond performance influence us. If it were only on performance, I would have Kobe Bryant posters all over my wall. These playoffs so far, he has taken over games and he’s definitely got my vote for MVP. Yet, I don’t cheer for him, though I’ve historically been a Lakers fan. I hope I can work this out with myself as I watch the Finals.
    -patrick

  5. Shkitty

    As I am a Laker fan since the days of Magic and James Worthy, I don’t know if I can be unbiased about this subject.
    I have been extremely disappionted with Kobe’s attitude in his playing carreer. A seeminly endless arsenal of on court weapons combined with a complete lack of understanding of what it takes to succeed in a team sport has left me as a fan that’s is used to the high standards that icons Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson and Jordan have set feeling frustrated.
    First Shaq and him, under the tutelage of one the finest Coaches FOR stars with egos, can’t co-exist. Then Phil left becuase even he can’t coach Kobe into a pass first system (yet somehow it was good enough for the best player in the history of the game in Jordan). Then when the Lakers give in to his demands for a team where he can be ‘the man’, he realizes too late that what good is it scoring 80 points on the Raptors when there is no one else left to score.
    It didn’t unfortunately end there. Then after the Laker franchise had seemed at one it’s lowest points in recent memory, Kobe has a national interview in which he publicly declares that he wants to be traded.
    What a difference a year and simply a heist of a trade makes. Now every one in Lakerland is happy, including the fans.
    I however will not forget how Kobe reacted when tested. He may be a changed and wiser person for the whole experiece, but to me his true nature showed through in this whole situation and this is not a person you want by your side when the shit hits the fan.
    On court is a different story where he seems to have proven that his skills are some of the best ever in the NBA. For now at least he seems content to pass first in the ‘triangle’ until the Lakers get too far behind and he has to take charge the way true Superstars do.

  6. Hey Shkitty,
    Thanks for taking the time again, as I always look forward to your sports comments. Even though I used a lot of words, wavered, anguished, but still couldn’t exactly express myself, I think you did a better job of giving concrete examples to define the ambivalence many of us feel towards Kobe.

    I think you gave some very good reasons why it is so hard to cheer for him. But I always find myself asking, if he didn’t demand what he did, if he wasn’t so confident in what he wanted, his way, would the Lakers be in the position they are today, so quickly? Can the expression ‘nice guys finish last’ be applied to this case?

    -Patrick

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