Here is something I wrote last year (around the time of the playoff series between the Lakers and the Suns) – the recent article written by Jemele Hill of ESPN.com echoed some of the same sentiments I expressed in this article…
Don’t be misled by the title, this isn’t another one of those articles blasting Kobe, bashing him like a yellow and purple pinata filled with smug arrogance. No, this article is me calling out every single Kobe hater that exists in the realm of this universe. Kobe has rarely ever lashed out at the media or fans that have turned on him or those that have never even attempted to respect what he has done in the league and for the league. On the basketball court, he has no equal. There is NO ONE else that possesses what Kobe does: the heart of a killer and the soul of an assassin. He is out to murder those in his way, a homicidal basketball prodigy who will administer a painful death to those that stand between him and the basket. He is the great white shark of the NBA. When Kobe smells blood, you can already hear the Jaws music in the background and you know that no matter how fast you swim, he will get you. You can sense he will do something that will take your breath away every time he touches the ball, and there are only a handful of players right now in the NBA that are even in the vicinity of Kobe in terms of the potential they have each time they touch the ball. There is no one else that anyone in their sane mind would rather have taking the last shot right now in the league other than Kobe. Yeah, I know, I’ve seen the stats of how Carmelo has the best game winning field goal percentage over the last few years, but cmon? You know that no matter how much you despise Kobe, you wouldn’t have anyone else but him take that last shot, unless of course, he’s taking it against your team.
The only two athletes that come to mind in terms of the scrutiny and criticism that they face are Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees and Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants. They are the only oher professional athletes that I can think of that are comparable in terms of hate directed towards them. A-Rod is the best player in professional baseball, but there are still those that doubt his ability and discredit his accomplishments. Kobe by no means is perfect, and he isn’t spared from my own criticisms of him. Yes, he can be selfish at times and lull his own team to sleep. The single most thing that has helped him succeed has at times caused him to fail: his competitiveness. He wants to win so much more than anyone else on the court, that he can at times become enamored with his own personal ambitions. But let me reiterate, he is the best player in the NBA, and only LeBron James can keep that from being a runaway argument. The Kobe Hatin’ swelled to an ultimate crescendo last year after the Lakers failed to make the playoffs. The hatin has quelled down this season, but it is still evident and prevalent around the country. Why is there so much hatred pinpointed at Kobe? I can admit that he hasn’t made the best decisions in his life, starting with the infidelity and then the entire episode with Shaq. Another absurd argument is that he isn’t street enough, doesn’t have the hood’ in him. Since when did a player have to be from the streets or have street cred for a fan to appreciate his spectacular talents? Has Kobe ever feigned anything to anyone? Is he being somebody he is not by wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and ice around his neck? Is everything about him a facade? Nope. He is exactly who he is and has always been. There are all these so-called experts, these renowned journalists who claim that Kobe is not street enough, but what do they know about the streets? The streets talk and there is definitely a lack of respect for Kobe, but even the streets can’t deny his talent, and neither should anyone. People seem to forget how cocky and arrogant Michael Jordan was as a player on the court and as an individual off the court. Jordan was a known womanizer and a horrid gambler, but he never received the criticism he probably deserved for the things he did and the way he was. He was immune to the criticism, maybe because the love and respect for him drowned out anything negative about him.
Michael had that same competitive demeanor about him, he wanted to rip the soul out of his opponent and feed it back to him. Kobe is just being Kobe, the same Kobe that everybody loves and everybody hates. He has remained who he has always been. People forget that Kobe was one of the more charismatic and adored players when he came into the league. People loved the fact that there was this young, black man who came into the league without any sort of thug identity or appearance and that he spoke well and was cultured. Then after the 3rd Lakers championship, Kobe’s reputation fell apart suddenly and irreparably. People forgot why they liked Kobe and focused more on the outrage and anger they felt for another athlete that let them down. They channeled that disappointment into their newfound hate and disrespect for Kobe. The media has also has to share some blame for the way Kobe has been vilified. The sports media is filled with people who overlook their own shortcomings, fallacies, and insecurities and incinerate those that have any fallacies at all. They seem to put every athlete under a microscope and seem to blast every other athlete about the way they live their life and the decisions they make, even when they don’t have their own lives together, when they themselves have made worse decisions than those that they criticize.
Kobe has stepped up even more this year, posting a career high in scoring and having his best all around year yet in his career. And now he has his team on the verge of defeating the favored Phoenix Suns in the first round of the playoffs. His competitive tenacity and his ability to play within the system and distribute opportunities to his teammates has given his team the advantage in the series. Game 4 of the series was vintage Kobe. He snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. Did you see that game? He made two improbable shots look EXPECTED. Was there a doubt in anyone’s mind that he wasn’t going to make that driving layup at the end of regulation? He made it look so easy, and then in overtime, everyone EXPECTED him to make that shot. It was as if the entire Staples Center was just waiting in anticipation until the ball dropped through the net to celebrate. They were like a woman who is witnessing her boyfriend getting down to one knee. They know exactly what is coming and they are just waiting until he whispers the words they have longed to hear. They are just waiting to go through the formalities of the process and once their boyfriend has proposed, they erupt in excitement and chaos. The crowd at the Staples Center knew exactly what they were about to witness. They are familiar with Kobe’s ability to drive the stake into the opponent’s heart. When you EXPECT a player to do great things and are disappointed otherwise, then you know that player is special. Kobe is the Jack Bauer of the NBA (even more so with the “24” number change next year). He frustrates the hell out of everyone, from his own team to his opponents, but no one can deny and argue with the results, regardless of the means in which he went about getting them. And don’t forget, Jack Bauer works in Los Angeles, just like Kobe. They both have the mind of a killer and the skills of a trained assassin, and both of their teams (CTU in Bauer’s case and the Lakers in Kobe’s case) benefit from it. Who would you have rather than Jack Bauer interrogating a known terrorist? Who would you have rather than Kobe taking the last shot or entrusting your playoff life to? There is no particular reason for anyone to respect Kobe the person, but respect Kobe the player and give the man his due props and the necessary recognition, and please, keep the Kobe Hatin’ to a minimum.