With Kobe Bryant's recent coronation as the NBA's Most Valuable Player, I felt that now is as good a time as any to re-post my last piece on The Black Mamba. As someone who used to hate the Lakers, it's amazing how Kobe has changed most fans' (and the media's) perception of him. Much love, Kobe.
Originally Posted on September 13, 2007
2000 Western Conference Finals: Blazers up by 15, 3rd Quarter, Game 7. Winner goes on to the NBA Finals. Life was good.
And then the 4th quarter came. In 12 minutes, I went from hoping Portland would win to hoping LA would lose. Every game. EVER.
And, on that moment, Kobe-hating was born.
You see, I used to like Kobe. He came in at a time when skipping college was relatively rare but becoming more appreciated. KG started the movement, and Kobe was one of the first recipients of the hype machine. I even used to collect his rookie cards! I remember watching him flame out in a playoff series against Utah early in his career. I like the fact that despite airballing his shots, he never hesitated. Hell, I admired him after that! So you see, I have nothing against Kobe the person.
And then that game above had to happen. I hated LA. I hated anything associated with the Lakers. Shaquille was just too dominant a player. Kobe was just too good. Add them up, and you get three years of frustration. Frustrated why a team fielding Rick Fox and Samaki Walker in the starting lineup could win championships. Wondering why a team as balanced as Portland and Sacramento could never get over the hump. From 2000-2002, the Lakers were the best team in the world, and Kobe was probably half the reason why. Actually, I feared him more than Shaq. He was able to score from almost anywhere, able to shoot over anyone, and able to send shivers down your spine you'd start to think he was ice. So let the hate pour, I did.
But then, the scandal happened. Kobe allegedly raped (or whatever is the more appropriate term) a girl in Colorado. When first read the story, I said "Whoa. Crazy." It surprised me, but I wasn't shocked. After all, it's not like he's the only athlete, hell, PERSON, who's done that kind of stuff. A few reports here and there would be enough, I assumed. So imagine my shock when this thing not only threatened to ruin Kobe's career, but also almost destroyed his image. The media talked about it as if he killed another person. It was all over the news, it was the subject of many a magazine cover... It was basketball, for some time.
Damn, people hated Kob' so much they basically threw out common sense. It was possible, after all, that it was not rape. It could simply have been extortion. Yes, I believe Kobe did it, and even he admitted it. But I had a hard time accepting the fact that it was rape.
Anyways, that should have given me more reason to hate Kobe. That should have been the proverbial nail-in-the-coffin, the last straw. But miraculously, it did the opposite. Whereas Kobe used to seem so self-assured on and off the court, it brought him to earth. The admission of the truth, the handling of the sheer craziness that ensued, the apology... Everything. Kobe handled it well. As much as I hated him (basketball-wise), I never wished him harm.
But now, we see a new Kobe. Yeah, the swagger's still there, and the instinct is still killer. But we see someone who wants to play team ball. Who wants to share the spotlight. Who knows his place.
More importantly, we see a Kobe who's not letting a second chance pass. The stigma is still there, somewhat. But that doesn't faze him. He almost lost the tag of Best Player Alive (of which there is no doubt). But that didn't faze him. He was thisclose to losing Nike's support. But that didn't faze him. Hell, he might've almost lost his family! That didn't faze him! He still did his thing, and I've got nothing but respect for that. Kept it all in and just worked for the things he almost lost. Shit, I'm even glad he visited the Philippines last week. The love he got from the people was satisfying, and I wish I could've been there.
I'm not quick to label him a totally changed man, and I'm not saying he's suddenly perfect. But we could all learn a lesson from Kob'. Maybe he learned his lesson, maybe it's all for show. That's for God to decide.
But I'm seeing a man that outlasted the pain. Who didn't change for anyone, but just changed for the better. And I respect that. It just goes to show you that even a person as self-assured as Kobe might go through shit. The great equalizer is our response. And I don't want to look far ahead at something this negative, but I just hope I will be smart about it. Like Kobe, I hope to re-emerge unscathed and better than ever.
A Lakers jersey still won't ever touch my back. And the Lakers will still be hated to death. But Kobe? Man, I respect the dude. Give credit where credit is due.
If nothing else, give the man a f*cking chance.
7 years ago