The start of the national basketball season is a very special time for us round-ball fans. It is a time of hope (Go Cavs!), a time of excitement, a time of anxiety, and a time of listening to the gospel that is Mr. Charles Barkley. And it is also the time of year when everyone starts bitching about Kobe Bryant.
Let it be known that I am not a Kobe fan and never really have been. In 3rd-grade-playground terms, he is a Bally Bally Ballhog standing on a log. I have spent years, if not actively rooting against him, then at the very least being completely indifferent to him. Do I think Kobe is one of the greatest ball players that has every played the game? Without a friggin’ doubt. Does that make me like him? Not by a long shot.
And yet, all this Kobe bashing that has preceded and then continued with the start of this NBA season is, in my humble yet expert opinion, one hundred percent completely unwarranted.
To throw it back to the 1990s, here’s the dealio: In 2013, Kobe signed a two-year, $48.5-million-dollar contract with the Lakers. For the 2013-2014 season, he played in only six games due to a fractured tibia. That’s right — six games. Because the Lakers paid so much for his services they don’t have any more money to sign any more superstars… or almost superstars…or even kinda-sorta superstars. Basically, they can’t afford to pay for anyone that can truly make a difference on the team. So what they are left with is a team that, to put it mildly, sucks a big bag of giant suck.
So now everyone is complaining that Kobe is being overpaid, that Kobe is no longer as good as he used to be, that Kobe is now too injury-prone, and that if Kobe really cared about the Lakers he wouldn’t have taken so much money and instead taken less so the team could have gotten a few more top-tier players to join him. And now there are reports (unsubstantiated) that even if they did have the cash to shell out for another All-Star that no one would come to LA and play with him because Kobe is considered a pain-in-the-ass diva. Things have gotten so ri-g*ddamn-diculous that ESPN listed Kobe at #40 for rankings of players this year. (Thirty-nine people are better than Kobe at basketball? Lay off the pipe, ESPN.)
So the hate level on the Kobe Bryant hate scale is most definitely at red these days. And that level is just way too high. Here’s why:
1) The Lakers didn’t have to pay him all that money. They could have said, “Um, yeah, no.” But they ponied up the cash because Kobe is that good. He is a brand, and when you are a brand you earn the ducats.
2) What is Kobe supposed to do? Say no to all that green? No one would say no to that amount of money. If Kobe were selfish for taking the forty eight million dollars for two years, than the entire human race is the exact same kind of selfish cause everyone would do the exact same thing. It is not about a sense of loyalty. It is about knowing what your skill set is worth.
3) If the Lakers had decided to let him go, what would that have left them with? An empty Staples Center, that’s what. Kobe puts butts in seats wherever he goes. (Seriously. Dude is a major draw in China.) No one is going to see the Lakers play anywhere unless Kobe is in uniform. The fact that I am only referring to him by his first name and you still know who I am talking about — it’s not like you are confusing him with American soccer star Cobi Jones — proves he’s kind of a big deal.
4) Is Kobe a diva that some players might not want to play with? I’m gonna take a big swing and say yes. The whole world is filled with divas. People who aren’t really good at anything are divas. (I won’t name the person I am thinking of, but her name rhymes with Kim Kardashian.) We all work with people we don’t like. If you can’t handle doing your job because you don’t like the person you work with, then you need to grow a pair and just get the job done. Besides, the NBA is chock-full of divas. Kobe just happens to be the best at it.
Sixteen years in the league, five championships, two-time Finals MVP, two-time scoring champion, sixteen-time NBA All Star, season MVP, four-time All Star MVP, twelve-time All Defensive Team selection, and the second most points in a single game. (He scored 81. Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain scored 100 back in 1962. He also reportedly slept with thousands of women. So there’s that.) Kobe has a super-impressive resume — one that definitely should get him a better ranking than #40 (again, ESPN, crack kills). That should be more than enough to shut people up about him. But it doesn’t. Not that the man needs defending, but Kobe is worth the bloated contract given him because a star is a star is a star. And in the end all of this bashing will have little effect on him.
If he feels bad, he can always just dry his tears with hundred-dollar bills.