This may be the most divisive thing I’ve posted on this blog in a long time:
I can’t stand Kobe Bryant.
A lifelong basketball fan, I was as excited as everyone else when this teenage phenom burst onto the scene with what appeared to be Jordan-like potential. And as for his talent, many predictions were right. He’s one of the greatest offensive players in the game. But he lacks Jordan’s character.
Yes, I know Mike had his own flaws, but in all, he was aware of his public influence and took care to present an image that could be looked up to. Kobe…not so much.
There was the incident a couple of years ago when he was accused of forcing sex on a young woman here in Colorado, and subsequently trying to re-ingratiate himself with his wife by laying a gigantic ring on her. While the details of the whole event are still unclear, the whole situation portrayed Bryant as arrogant, self-centered and perhaps even aggressive toward women.
And his on-court persona doesn’t do much to persuade people otherwise regarding the first two attributes. He’s notorious for not passing the ball, chucking it toward the hoop every time it comes his way. Sure he is prone to scoring 40 points in a game, but he’s also likely to take upwards of 50 shots to do it.
That’s all petty stuff unless you’re a b-ball fan, I know. But there’s more not to like.
Last year, Bryant pitched quite a fit on the sideline after being penalized. After throwing some towels and punching a chair, he turned his attention to Bennie Adams, a referee calling the game. Kobe’s response is clear as you can see in the video below. He calls the guy a “F—ing Faggot.”
And right there on prime time national television for all his young fans to see and emulate.
Fortunately NBA Commissioner David Stern swiftly issued Bryant a $100,000 for the slur, and Bryant issued a public apology. Kobe’s personal feelings aside, I’ve been encouraged by the fact that a lot of good can come out of a terrible situation. I was pleased – though not surprised – to see a PSA produced by the Los Angeles Lakers emerge a short time after the event that took the issue head-on:
Though this may have been more damage control for their star player and team brand than anything else, it says something about where we are as a society that such hateful comments don’t go by without accountability.
But then I was watching a game this season with my eight-year-old son, Mattias, when the following commercial aired:
Following is posted along with the video on Youtube:
NBA players Grant Hill and Jared Dudley shot a PSA for GLSEN and the Ad Council’s Think Before You Speak campaign on April 12, 2011. The PSA is the first phase of a partnership between GLSEN, the NBA and the Ad Council to address anti-LGBT language among teens. Learn more about the campaign at http://thinkb4youspeak.com
Props to the NBA, and specifically to Grant Hill and Jared Dudley, for making this a league-wide issue. It’s strange to think that the glaring character defects of one man could result in something better than the damage he’s done on his own, but perhaps Bryant’s outburst was just the catalyst the NBA needed to take on a necessary and worthy cause.
Nothing excuses Kobe Bryant’s actions, but I find it hopefully that we live in a time when his peers and the general public don’t tolerate such hate speech as normal. And just maybe the campaign in response will turn a few hearts for the better.