For as long as I can remember, I’ve had the same answer to the question, “Who’s your least favorite athlete?” The answer is Kobe Bryant, and it’ll take a Matt Barnes — Derek Fisher level of personal beef between me and another athlete to dethrone Kobe from that spot. Like any modern day Boston sports fan, I hate A-Rod and Bernard Pollard and Mike Ribiero, but none of them reach the level of Kobe.
Before analyzing all the reasons that I drink the Kobe Bryant haterade, let me say that I do respect the hell out of his competitiveness and his drive for greatness. I can’t knock that he is one of the best players to ever play basketball, and I do realize that many of his faults come from his maniacal competitiveness. But not all of them do, and that’s why I hate him.
To start, let’s throw out this fiction that all, or at least most, of Kobe’s faults throughout his career have come from his drive to win championships. It’s complete bullshit. He wanted to be the best basketball player that he could be, and more specifically, he wanted to be an NBA alpha dog more than anything. From about 2010-2012, we would hear Kobe often declaring, “I’m all about number 6.” Here’s the thing, though. That sixth ring, or the first through the fifth, was never his primary motive. His primary motive was his own personal greatness. If Kobe really was all about the rings, then why did he willingly aid in the disbanding of the greatest 1-2 punch the NBA had seen since MJ and Pippen all because of his ego? Kobe and Shaq agreed on Shaq’s podcast recently that the reason they butted heads was that it was impossible for two alpha dogs to exist at once, and that’s fair. But doesn’t that prove that Kobe wasn’t all about the rings? I’m not absolving Shaq from blame in the bitchiness that the early 2000’s Lakers exhibited, but nobody is trying to pretend that Shaq only cared about winning rings throughout his career.
Oh yeah, and if Kobe only cared about rings, then why did he take the worst contract in the NBA the past 2 seasons, crippling the Lakers’ cap space? Last season, LeBron James made $21 million, and he almost carried his team to a championship after they lost both of his All Star sidekicks. The past 2 years, Kobe has made an average of $24.25 million to jack up a ton of horrendous shots and stunt the growth of the Lakers’ young pieces.
And let’s explore a little further how good of a teammate Kobe Bryant was…
You know how everyone crucified D’Angelo Russell for how bad of a teammate he was for recording the conversation with Nick Young? Yeah, well, Kobe basically did the same thing, except worse. He took a shot at Shaq for paying hush money to his side pieces simply because he hated Shaq. At least when D’Angelo Russell put his teammate on blast, it was unintentional. (For those who are crying out “Why are we criticizing D’Angelo Russell and not Nick Young, Young was the cheater!?” Yes, you’re right, Nick Young was cheating and there’s no excuse for that. But if you’ve been following the story through the eyes of sports fans and analysts, then of course we’re gonna look at the situation through the perspective of sports, i.e. what a terrible teammate D’Angelo Russell is.)
And that isn’t the end of Kobe’s horrible status as a teammate. Remember when he called out Smush Parker, who hadn’t been on the Lakers in years, by saying “We were too cheap to pay for a real point guard, so we let him walk on”? I find that quote especially interesting because Kobe Bryant said that right before the 2012-2013 season, a season in which the Lakers would have to play a bunch of journeymen due to injuries. Don’t you think it’s a bad idea to send the message that you’ll call out guys who aren’t that good long after they’re off the team? I’m sure his teammates loved hearing that. I have no problem with a player speaking his mind, but when there’s nothing to be gained by saying something and it can only cause a rift in the locker room, why say it? Then again, Kobe didn’t care at all about rifts in the locker room.
Next, let’s go onto the fact that Kobe, for all the talk of him being so direct and brutally honest, has been both incredibly passive aggressive and a complete liar at times. The Shaq-Kobe beef was the best example, because, despite the two guys proclaiming that they were happy that they always handled their business face to face, there exists the minor detail that such a proclamation is absolutely absurd. Shaq and Kobe exuded more bitchiness and gossip than the Real Housewives and Jersey Shore put together.
And how about Kobe dropping the line today that the Charlotte Hornets said they had no use for him in 1996, which fueled him completely?:
Here’s the thing: That’s also bullshit. The real story can be found here. The short version is that Kobe’s agent, Arn Tellum, wouldn’t let Kobe work out for certain teams in an effort to get Kobe on a non-lottery team. He specifically wanted the Lakers, and Kobe and Tellum did whatever they could to make the Kobe-for-Vlade Divac trade happen. But when you want to anoint yourself as the most badass competitor of all time, the truth doesn’t matter, right?
But there’s one more reason that I hate Kobe passionately, and I’m guessing that you know the reason. Actually, there are two reasons, but they stem from the same situation.
“Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did. After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.”
Yeah, I’m talking about the 2003 incident in Colorado. Despite the fact that sports fans have tried their best to forget the incident, Kobe Bryant raped a woman. Well, to be fair, I honestly don’t know if “rape” is the right word to use. I’m not saying it’s not, I’m just saying that a professional who knows far more about sex crimes than I do needs to make that call. I’ll take Kobe’s statement above at face value, and I’ll believe him that he thought the encounter was consensual. Therefore, he didn’t have the same malicious intentions as most rapists, but that doesn’t change the fact that what he did was unequivocally evil. Especially when you’re a 6’6″ professional athlete who probably has twice the body weight and 5-6 times as much muscle as the woman in the scenario, you have to make sure that she actually, you know, wants you to have sex with her. Seems like a good idea. But maybe I’m just a Lakers hater, right?
Kobe’s level of scum in the Colorado case isn’t the be all and end all of why I hate him in regards to the case, though. Part of the reason that the case infuriates me so much is the public reaction, especially 13 years later. You know how Ray Rice has been vilified to the point that he’s basically the poster boy for and high profile domestic violence case? And let’s be as brutally honest as people claim that Kobe is: It’s clear that part of the reason that the Rice case got so much public traction is because so many people, many of whom don’t care about the full context of domestic violence in the NFL, jumped on the story as a way to crucify the NFL and the Ravens for the way they handled the case and to stand on a moral platform and proclaim how horrible domestic violence is and how rampant it is in professional sports — all points which are unquestionably 100% true.
Here’s the thing. The American public is quite stupid when it comes to issues like this, as I have written before in regards to the Johnny Manziel situation with his girlfriend in December. For instance, people only cared about the Ray Rice case when a video was released, even though Rice admitted to the NFL exactly what he did during his first meeting with them. Furthermore, the hypocrisy among fans on issues like this is dumbfounding. The public wants to criticize the NFL for reacting to such a case so late, but they fail to mention that there were 57 cases of domestic violence in the NFL between 2006, the year that Roger Goodell took office, and the Rice incident in 2014. A whopping THIRTY-FUCKING-FOUR went completely unpunished. It’s always seemed to me that the American public has given itself some credit for making the NFL change its rules, and the public has stood on some moral high ground by saying, “Can you really believe how bad the domestic violence situation in the NFL is???” Well, why did the public outcry only reach that level with the 58th case of domestic violence in Goodell’s 8 years as Commissioner? If the American people want to give themselves credit for changing the public discourse about domestic violence and the horror of it, then the same people should also accept some blame for not giving a shit about the issue until 2014.
I bring up the Rice/domestic violence example not to compare that crime to Kobe Bryant’s, because, frankly, I think Bryant’s was worse. (Again, my opinion doesn’t really matter on that one, and I’ll leave that verdict up to a professional in dealing with sex crimes.) I bring up the Rice example to demonstrate the stupidity with which the American public deal with high profile sex crimes, especially in the aftermath.
You know how people always demand that athletes should be role models? Specifically, parents demand that athletes need to be role models for their children. Well, since the Colorado rape case, it seems that Kobe has become a role model for so many because of his competitive drive and desire to win. This Bleacher Report slideshow stated that Kobe had the 2nd highest selling jersey of the previous decade from 2013, and they say in the Kobe slide that Kobe still had the 5th highest selling jersey in 2004 and 2005 — the years following Kobe’s rape case.
Ultimately, this is the biggest reason why I hate Kobe Bryant. Kobe has long been the epitome of hypocrisy among sports fans. It has never made sense to me that so many fans claim that their athletes need to be more than just athletes (a sentiment which I largely disagree with due to examples like Kobe Bryant), and specifically, athletes need to be role models to show children how to behave on and off the court. If that’s the case, then why does Kobe Bryant get a worldwide retirement tour in which everyone serenades him with love when Ray Rice gets called a cancer to society? Believe me, I’m not defending Ray Rice, but it would only seem consistent for people to treat Kobe with even 1% of the same level of disdain that Rice receives.
When I was in college, our marketing professor showed us a Nike advertisement with Tiger Woods (post sex scandal) that says “Winning solves everything.” She asked us her opinion on the ad, and then told us that she hated it because it seemed to send a message that what Tiger did was OK, so long as he wins. While that professor was one of my favorite and best professors, I couldn’t disagree more with her for saying that Nike was way out of line. Nike was simply stating the truth of how the public views its athletes. People are willing to overlook what horrendous acts someone has committed, so long as they produce on the field. That’s what you’re seeing now throughout the retirement tour that Kobe Bryant is getting, as people are not just staying (correctly) what a great basketball player Kobe is, but what a treasure to humanity that he has been. Actually, that’s false, and such a line of argument spits in the face of the sanctimonious stances that people take about how athletes need to be role models, how sports teams should care about a player’s character just as much as they care about his talent, and how heinous crimes, especially those against women, are unforgivable. Even if Kobe Bryant A) cared about winning more than being an alpha dog like he has always said, B) was anything other than a horrendous teammate, and C) wasn’t as much of a passive aggressive liar as he is, I would still hate him. I hate Kobe not just for committing a crime that nobody should ever commit, but because he’s the best possible example for the societal hypocrisy that is exhibited by sports fans.