Before every LeBron fan, Durant fan, or Gloria Steinem fan blindly Mics this article because of its title, or I incur the equally blind wrath of Kobe fans, understand something: Until a couple nights ago, I had been a diehard Kobe fan ever since I was 12, so it’s a personal thing, choosing that title — I want to know what it’s like to publicly trash “The Black Mamba” the way everyone else has since his fateful and unfortunate Colorado encounter in 2003.
For the last decade, I’ve done nothing but defend Kobe’s name — and after Game 2 of the Lakers-Thunder series, I finally realize how tiresome and useless that effort was.
Kobe Bryant will most likely be carrying an elephant on his back into every room he occupies from now until the day he dies; and though that elephant might naturally shrink over time, it’ll still be there nonetheless. So long as he’s playing the game and continues to exhibit his undeniable flashes of the brilliance on the court, that elephant will weigh heavily. To think people’s perceptions of him (particularly amongst his most unreasonably ardent detractors — and most of his critics seem to fall under this category) aren’t at all shaped by his infamous sexual assault scandal would be incredibly naïve. That’s like saying Magic Johnson would have done all the HIV/AIDS awareness work he’s done in his life even if had not contracted the virus.
Because of that rape case, people love to hate Kobe — off the court and on the court. His detractors love to see him fail, as he did in the last two minutes of Game 2 two nights ago. They pounce on those opportunities to rub his failures in his face and gloat about their favorite players, like LeBron (totally ringless) or Durant (totally … awesome, I admit).
The sad thing about this is it’s unwarranted. On a personal level, maybe his past transgression and possible rape have weight, but even then, only two people in the world know what truly happened in that hotel room. One would rather have you forget; the other isn’t saying a thing, and she’s probably still quietly rolling around in the dough left over from the settlement. Moreover, none of us knows Kobe Bryant — just as none of us truly knows any of the celebs we love to trash. We talk and talk, and yet our words mean nothing because at the end of the day, we don’t know him. Furthermore, it’s almost been a decade since the incident occurred.
And while justification for people’s thrashing him on a personal level is questionable, that incident has even less to do with any discussion of him on a professional level. He continues to shatter franchise and league-wide scoring records right and left; he scored 81 points in a regulation game, something damn near impossible in a post-Chamberlain NBA; he’s a five-time NBA champion, a two-time Finals MVP, and though it’s only been awarded to him once, Kobe has always been a perennial contender for the regular season MVP award.
Kobe Bryant is a wonderfully talented, inspiring athlete. And every year he becomes a better teammate, a better role model, and a better leader … But who cares, right?
Who cares if Tom Cruise is actually a truly great, dedicated, and passionate actor — he’s just an over-happy, 5’6”, couch-jumping, Scientologist crackpot, right? Who cares if Kanye West is probably the most talented and creative music producer and beat-maker of his generation, rivaling the likes of Dr. Dre and Pete Rock — he’s just a “jackass,” moron, pop diva, right? So what if Kobe is arguably the most cunning, most tenacious, most fearless winner in the game of basketball today; because the court of public opinion has all the answers, doesn’t it (the same court that nearly elected Sarah Palin vice president four years ago)? According to this court, Kobe got away with rape, and thus he doesn’t deserve to be considered a great basketball player.
Perhaps our public figures are so misunderstood because we’re too lazy to understand them fully. Perhaps it’s just more entertaining to us, or even vindicating for us, to purposefully misunderstand them and concede to our ignorance. But that’s just us; apparently it’s…just not cool to be empathetic, constructive, or logical anymore. We’re pickers and choosers, no better than homophobic Bible-thumpers.
Generation Y, baby — as in, “Y bother?”