There’s Something About Kobe.

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“There’s Something about Kobe Bryant that is just ‘yuck’.  As a life long Portlander and die hard Blazer fan, he is on top of my most disliked athlete list and  a ‘public enemy’ to the city.  There is no doubting his talent; Kobe is one of the best players of our generation, if not all time.  However, his bravado and the way he carries himself is a complete different story.  For some reason, it just rubs me the wrong way.

On Court
When Kobe was part of the heralded 1996 NBA Draft alongside numerous NBA big names, he was a story anyone could root for.  Young kid who is son of a former NBA player, grew up in Italy, speaks the language, and plays hard.  He was a gym rat who took notes on past NBA greats and was committed to winning at a young age.  There were even stories that he even beat Philadelphia 76er’s 1995 top pick Jerry Stackhouse in a game of one on one when he was still in high school.
Upon entering the draft, he was taken by the Charlotte Hornets at 13th overall and traded to the Lakers for Vlade Divac shortly after.  He entered the league and was a promising bench warmer for the first couple seasons.  Bryant was more renowned for being an exciting player who could throw down gracefully more so than his actual game. Winning the 1997 NBA Dunk Contest might have been to thank for that. I can remember watching him in the early years, being that he could dunk like no ones business and put up numerous errant shots that would make even J.R. Smith cringe.

After the learning curve was over and he developed a greater chemistry with Shaquille O’Neal, people really saw Kobe’s true potential start to show.   He emerged was one of the league’s great scoring guards around his 3rd season with team.  He was a force to be reckoned with because off his ability to beat defenders at will and get to the basket.  His jumper from midrange was smooth, and while his 3 was a work in progress, it was serviceable.
This is where things start to get painful for me.  The 2000 Portland Trailblazers were a talented crew who looked destined to win the NBA title.  With Scottie Pippen, Rasheed Wallace, Damon Stoudamire, Arvydas Sabonis, Steve Smith, and Brian Grant, how could they lose?  This seemed apparent when they were up by 15 heading into the 4th quarter in game 7 vs. the Lakers in the 2000 Western Conference Finals.  Then things fell apart for the team, and every time I see this I want to cry. The Lakers went on to scrap the Pacers in the Finals, and there’s no doubt that the Blazers would have done the same.  This helped spark the three-peat for the Lakers, eventually taking down the 76er’s in ’01 and the Nets in ’02 to win 3 championships in a row.
Following that historic run, Kobe set the NBA record for most 3 pointers in a game in 2003 against the Sonics. Its an honor that he  now shares with, of all people, Donyell Marshall. Marshall’s record was set in 2005, and Kobe would have his revenge on the Raptors the next season for tying his mark. He dropped 81 on them, the 2nd highest point total in NBA history behind Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 point performance.  The side note that burns me the most was when he hit 2 clutch shots against the Blazers in 2004 to close out the regular season and seal the Pacific division for the Lakers.
A couple of seasons later, they ended up back in the Finals against the Detroit Pistons, and were heavy favorites having acquired future Hall of Famers Gary Payton and Karl Malone.  However, the Pistons had a different agenda, taking down the Lakers in a 5 game series for the NBA title.  My favorite memories from that series were of Ben Wallace knocking down open jumpers and hitting his free throws, an ironic tone setter for the series ahead. Everyone was stunned by the Lakers loss and it ultimately dissolved the team, losing Shaq and many other talented players.
The next few seasons for Kobe were disorienting and ultimately basketball purgatory for his career. He ‘dissed’ Andrew Bynum in a fan shot video and was even demanding trades to get out of Los Angeles.  A season after, the Memphis Grizzlies and GM Chris Wallace ‘donated’ star Pau Gasol to the team.
What better way to celebrate than do the ‘airplane’

3 Finals appearances and 2 NBA titles later, Kobe is being talked about as being the Greatest Laker in history.  He’s only one title shy of tying Jordan’s 6 with the Bulls. I think Magic Johnson is still the greatest Laker player of all-time.  The heart of ‘Showtime’ basketball has 5 titles, MVP 3 times, 12 time all-star, and All-NBA 1st team 9 times.  Magic was the greatest players of all-time, having the titles and resume to show it.  Kobe, barring another title or 2, will always be a notch behind Jordan.

Off Court

Did you know Kobe Bryant’s prom date in high school was pop star Brandy?  Yes, the former star of Moesha, sister of Ray J, and former fiancé of Quentin Richardson.  Kobe has always been somewhat of a celebrity, even before he hit the league.
He was always looked at as a clean athlete who let his game do the talking early on in his career.  High profile companies, such as Sprite, McDonald’s, and adidas, endorsed him.  His image was squeaky clean and he was a big name athlete who was advertising gold.  Then Eagle, Colorado happened.
Gross

The infamous rape case that made everyone view Kobe Bryant in a negative light was one of a ‘he said, she said.’  I’m not going to get into the facts of the case, but if you want to know more you can read here. I do not think he did it, personally.  In retrospect, he was Tiger Woods in terms of cheating and extra marital affairs before Tiger Woods. Ultimately, the case ended up resulting in Kobe purchasing a $4 million ring for his wife as a ‘gift.’  Bet you can’t guess why…

Kobe also ratted to authorities on Shaq for paying off women, which is a big ‘no-no’ in the athlete world for throwing your teammate under the bus.  It was one of the things that helped spark the Kobe-Shaq feud.  Following these events, the meetings between the two on-court were awkward and there were small jabs exchanged over time. The best of which was a Shaq freestyle rap. Eventually, the beef was squashed and the two are now friends, supposedly.
Kobe’s on court antics come off to me as flat out cocky, confident, and ‘better than everyone else and I can do whatever I want’ attitude.  You have the right to be when you are that good and are an ice-cold killer with the ball, but some it is just stupid. Case and point  here with his rat faced scowl. I dare anyone to find me something stupider than an athlete does than this.  It’s awful.  He always does that airplane thing too after making a big shot, which gets annoying. I mean, its not like he’s so good that he can jump over an Aston Martin.
Classic

Finally, we come to my favorite Kobe pictures.  I don’t know what the L.A. Times Magazine or Kobe was thinking this past year, but they’re entertaining. Deadspin.com did a hilarious photo shop contest to make fun of them, and they are definitely worth a look for a good laugh.

___

Kobe is probably the best player of the last decade, but that doesn’t mean I have to like him.  He is truly one of those players that you love to hate.  His stupid quirks and clutch performances against your team are enough to get anyone riled up.  No city else knows that better than Portland.  And we had the ‘Kobe Stopper.’
I have never, nor will I ever, like the Lakers.  They are my least favorite team in all of sports, and it sure doesn’t help that that’s who Kobe plays for.  Maybe if he was on a different team, I might like him.  I hope his title runs are at an end, but I honestly doubt they are.  You may not like him, but you respect his game.  He may not have many years left to be elite, so enjoy the love/hate while you can.
And he would wear a shirt of himself.”
-Bjorn Zetterberg
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