By now, Kobe Bryant knows that he’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. He could broker world peace, only to have folks wondering why he doesn’t solve world hunger. He could save a three-legged puppy from a burning building, and then have the press asking why he didn’t also put out the fire.
To say that the 32-year-old Los Angeles Lakers superstar is sometimes stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place is akin to describing Michael Jordan as a guy who kind of liked to play cards for money from time to time.
In a seemingly unrelated story: finally, after years of his political rivals and -- more recently people with bad hair -- badgering him about not having a real American birth certificate, Barack Obama produced the magical piece of paper that in theory should have been enough to silence his critics once and for all. Of course, it didn’t.
The people who thought he was a secret agent spy working for the Taliban or Hezbollah or whoever, think he presented a forgery. It took him too long to show it to the public, they say. And on the flip side, the people who didn’t need to see his birth certificate and/or thought the whole thing was an embarrassment to the nation still do.
Essentially, the people who hate Obama still hate him; the people who love him, still love him.
It’s only fitting that this came to be on the day after Kobe’s fairly-solid-kinda-good performance against the New Orleans Hornets in Game 5 -- despite the ankle. You know, the ankle which Kobe injured, but for which no official paperwork exists. The ankle that Kobe’s supporters are sure he hurt, and his detractors are sure is fine.
The whole situation with Kobe refusing to do the MRI, and people wanting to see the MRI, but Kobe not giving them the MRI, has been covered ad nauseum. The double-edged sword scenario that he faced if he were to have the necessary tests done was already discussed, and you can read that here.
Rather, let’s shift focus onto the aftermath of the L.A.’s 106-90 victory over New Orleans. Now in that particular game, Kobe scored 19 points, highlighted by one absolutely vicious slam dunk on Emeka Okafor which had enough force behind it to put four generations of Okafor descendents on posters. And that’s to say nothing of the lift that Kobe had on that jump. Saying that he went vintage Shawn Marion would be an understatement. The air that he got on that dunk made many viewers wonder if Robin Williams had inserted Flubber into Kobe’s ankle during the break between Games 4 and 5.
Unfortunately, that same dunk coupled with a somewhat underwhelming -- albeit efficient -- 19 points proved to be enough to get the conspiracy juices flowing. Considering the fact that Kobe’s game wasn’t particularly great aside from the aforementioned dunk, one may be puzzled that people would even go there. But then you realize that when Kobe is the discussion point, nothing is off limits, and it starts making sense.
Kobe faked it. He didn’t look injured. He doesn’t really fly with Turkish Airlines.
Of course, it’s easy to casually omit that Kobe was all but a non-factor in the first quarter of that game as he attempted to adjust to the limitations that the ankle presented him with. Similarly, to actually cite that Trevor Ariza was embarrassing him on defense, taking advantage of said limitations for as long as he could, would be equally undermining to tearing Kobe down. That kind of stuff doesn’t make for as fun of a conspiracy theory.
It’s a bit mind-boggling that this is still happening. That Kobe is still at the point where everything he does is second-guessed, criticized and ultimately turned into a negative.
If LeBron James thinks a title will solve all his problems, he has another thing coming. Take heed from a guy who’s watched Kobe earn five chips, LeBron: when people hate you, they hate you.
And that’s not to say some disdain isn’t natural or alright. Over the years, as he’s progressively grown up before the basketball-watching world, Kobe has made some notable mistakes. OK, a lot of notable mistakes. But does that mean people have to resort to being so petty as to question whether or not he is faking an injury? Mind you, these aren’t joking, light-hearted references to something funny in a player’s past. This is people legitimately believing that the man is attempting to pull a fast one on NBA fans and portray his injury as worse than it really is. An offense that falls just below throwing games, in most people’s books.
To call it character assassination is probably a little excessive. So, let’s just call what it is: annoying.
There is no other player, who after playing an integral role in over 1100 regular season and 200 playoff games, still has to absorb this much abuse for refusing to give in to an injury.
And instead of commending him, admiring Kobe for his ability to come through with type of spirit we want from our sports stars, we condemn him. Diminish his accomplishments as if he’s doing something wrong, when in reality, he isn’t.
More than anything else, people should realize that the injuries are only going to increase in frequency from here on out, not decrease. He’s playing against father time right now, and no matter how much of a warrior Kobe is or how much he refuses to lose, this is one game that isn’t his to take over. As it is, his peak years of dominance are in the rear view. Nobody is going to mistake the Kobe of this year for the Kobe of two years ago, right?
Instead of trivializing his injuries and diminishing his accomplishments, maybe folks should sit back and appreciate the kind of talent that they’re witnessing right now. Respect the level of brilliance that he’s brought to the game over the course of five championships, seven finals showings and countless playoff appearances.
Kobe’s heyday is almost over. Appreciate it now, or never again.
Or, just keep demanding to see an MRI. That works too.