Kobe Bryant raped a chick! I figured I would start with that so all the irrational Kobe lovers would know that this is your chance to get out before I turn your life on it's head. It's common knowledge that every Mamba lover has dismissed these allegations with one of any number of airtight rebuttals, like... The vaginal trauma she sustained was obviously caused by the sex she had with a white dude the night before... The blood found on Kobe's shirt came from a brutal foul during the game that day and you just know the referees missed it... Would a monster capable of rape really buy his (ex) wife a ring that big?... He was in Utah and all the more willing girls had already been snatched up by Mormons... That girl was a slut (like there is a private stash of virgins who save themselves for NBA players)... Uncomfortable yet? The reason I bring this up is because it is indicative of the person that Kobe is, and the people who love him blindly. I believe him to be massively overrated, as well as a self-centered jackass. Just because he was the best in the game for a small window of time doesn't make him one of the best players ever. And I'm not saying that he is the only athlete guilty of being self-centered, but he takes being a bad teammate to a whole new level.
Now for the record, I am a Mamba lover. It's been my favorite candy for as long as I can remember, but I'm sad to say that I can no longer find it in my local convenience stores so I'm forced to talk about the Black Mamba instead. Did you know that he gave himself that nickname? Who does that? I guess people who aren't worthy of nicknames to start out with. Mine (Messy) was given to me at birth by God himself, and then by my neighbor who couldn't pronounce my last name correctly. So the obvious argument for why he is one of the best ever is the number of rings that he has the luxury of wearing. I could make the argument that without Phil keeping Kobe's ego in check, he would have none. But that's too easy. For the first three championships (2000, '01, '02) he wasn't even the best player on his own team. In the first against the Pacers in Kobe's fourth year, he averaged 15 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists per game on 36% shooting! Shaq, a man capable of elevating his game for an entire series when it counts, averaged 38 points, 16 rebounds and almost 3 blocks a game while shooting an ungodly 61% for the series. For those of you that don't study basketball like I do, it's fairly simple to see if a player is an efficient scorer and can create good shots for himself. Does he make half of the shots that he takes from the floor? There is much more to it than that, like free throw attempts, 3 point attempts, etc. but I like to keep it simple. Kobe has never once in his career shot over 46% from the field during a season. You may think that is pretty close (in his best shooting season btw) but when you are shooting as much as Kobe does, those percentage points add up. In the next year against Philadelphia, his numbers improve across the board with averages of 24 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists per game in the finals. He still shot 41% from the field while Shaq had another monster series. In the third year during the sweep versus the Nets, Kobe had a great series. Unfortunately for Mamba and the Lakers, Shaq's was better; the count was 3 rings, no finals MVP's for Kobe and that started to eat at him. Does everyone remember how things played out after this? A couple losses to the Spurs and the Mambo decided that he was better than Shaq and that there isn't room for the two of them in LA. Because king baby Kobe is the future and Shaq was on the decline, he is soon traded to Miami (where he would win another ship) while Kobe remained in LA LA land. I think he honestly thought that he would be first player to ever win without any help, and I'm pretty sure he liked playing with scrubs (for a while) so he could hoist up as many shots as possible. He wanted to average 40 points a game and win in it all, and he was too arrogant to understand how impossible that is. Yeah, he scored 81 points in a game which is amazing. You know what else is amazing? How bad the Lakers were that year. They actually started a guy named Smush.
Kobe became relevant again once the Grizzlies essentially gave Kobe the key second man that he didn't think that he needed. By this time, an uber-talented Andrew Bynum was beginning to come into his own. Do people remember all the nonsense that went on before Gasol came? Kobe questioning publicly whether the Lakers still deserved him... Publicly slamming a young and impressionable Andrew Bynum and questioning the management's decision to take him... Throwing people under the bus left and right because he couldn't possibly accept responsibility for having a bad team. And that was just off the court. On the court, there was no such thing as a bad shot in his world. Why pass the ball when he could shoot a step-back fadeaway three-pointer and then whine for a foul when he missed? He has averaged under five assists a game for his career, mostly when he accidently dribbled off of his shoe to a teammate who was wide open for a layup because everyone was ooooing and ahhhhing at Kobe's "offense". To me he will go down as the player who took the most, and inherently made the most, bad shots. He is a bad shot maker, which fans love (and try and emulate, which is bad for the game). He once in a while will pass out of a double or triple-team, but not willingly. Then came the Zen Master, back again with the ability to somehow deceive Kobe (maybe he hypnotized him) into believing in this triangle offense which allowed other players to touch the ball every once in a while. So back they were in the finals in 2008 against a Magic team who had no right being there in the first place because Dwight carried that team with almost no help. Kobe finally gets his first finals MVP, and deservedly so. He averaged 7 assists per game for an entire series! Granted, he shot 43% from the field while Pau shot 60% with his 18 points per game but that was Kobe's team and he shouldered the load. I will give him that one without protest. The next year is an example of why I don't think he can be considered in the top 5 of all time greats. They won it again, but he once again failed to elevate his game for a series when he shot 40% from the field with 4 rebounds and 4 assists. He's always going to get his points, because that's what he does. I have looked at his playoff/finals numbers and he simply doesn't take it to another level. The players around him did; Pau (virtually as many assits as Kobe), Fisher, Artest, and Odom all improved on their regular season stats when it mattered most. Do you remember the stats I listed for Shaquille? If you look back at the numbers, the best players play their best basketball when it matters most, but not Kobe. Consistently great. I understand that I am using numbers to skew the perspective, like most analysts do, and there is no denying that Kobe passes the eye test because he is amazing. But there is a laundry list of players over the course of history that I would take over Kobe Bryant based on numbers alone. And it's impossible to quantify the effect that his ego and shot selection have had on the psyche of his teammates.
Which brings me to this year. I got into a heated discussion with one of these bandwagon Kobe/Laker fans because I said that he doesn't know how to play with superstars anymore. Pau and Bynum are not superstars, they are all-stars. They are great players who blended well with Kobe because they didn't have the egos of superstars, but Kobe has always been a lone wolf so they were good fits. He struggled doing it with Shaq, and without Phil there to check his ego, I knew that this season was headed for trouble. I had no idea it would be this bad (imagine my delight) but I am in no way surprised. Firing Brown was mistake number one, Hiring D'Antoni was mistake number two, but thinking that Kobe would all of the sudden become a selfless teammate was what started it all. The Nash/Pau/Dwight combination alone would be enough to make this a playoff team, but Kobe has to be Kobe. Screw team basketball, he has to get his 30 a game and those other bums can fend for themselves. He needs to learn to be a more efficient scorer, but it's too late for that. I knew that this double digit assist thing was a mirage because he doesn't trust anyone but himself. This last debacle with throwing another teammate under the bus is the icing on the cake for me. I'm not going to sit back and pretend like this chump is above the game. It feels so similar to me since an old favorite of mine did the same thing in regards to football, and it invokes the same feeling of disdain in me for the disrespect of players past, current, and those to come. No one is above the game, and I am relishing the way his career is beginning to unravel similar to that of the aforementioned dickhead. I appreciate sports and players for who they really are, so I can admit that they are great players but can also see that they always put themselves first. Those are not people who I would want on my team.