The NBA season starts tonight. The soap opera that is the Lake Show is, of course, the number one topic on L.A. sports radio shows. Is Kobe a good guy or a bad guy? A caller on a recent show argued that we should judge athletes by their on court behaviour, not their off court behaviour. I contend that they are one and the same thing.
Lest you think I am an angry feminist still unhappy that the rape charges were dropped, the only thing I fault Kobe for is having forceful sex without reading the S&M 101 Manual. If you’re going to have forceful sex, you negotiate before the act, not in the heat of the moment. If you are a multimegamillionaire and you make that kind of mistake, you can expect a lot of trouble.
Before he was accused of rape, Kobe cultivated a squeaky clean image. If a reporter broached the subject, he made it clear that he would never cheat on his wife. He did cheat on his wife and he had an ongoing two year sexual relationship with another woman. Michael Jordan had some legal difficulties from a two year affair that started around the time of his marriage. Isn’t that taking the Michael Jordan emulation thing a bit too far?
After he signed a new contract with the Lakers, Jim Gray interviewed Kobe on television. Kobe said he liked playing with Shaquille O’Neal. In Phil Jackson’s new book, The Last Season: A Team in Search of Its Soul, he quotes Kobe as saying that he was not going to be Shaq’s sidekick any more and that Shaq’s presence on the team would affect his decision about where he was going to play. Kobe has also said that he liked playing for Phil Jackson even if they were unlikely to have lunch together any time soon. Last April, Kobe took one shot in the first half in a game against Sacramento as if to say, “You think I shoot too much, I’ll show you, I won’t shoot at all”. One of his teammates anonymously said to a reporter, “I don’t know how we can forgive him,” and Phil Jackson later admitted that he didn’t have control of Kobe’s game.
You may think that Keyshawn Johnson is a jerk, you may think that Terrell Owens is a jerk, but at least you know where they stand. Kobe knows that if he had said publicly that Shaq’s presence on the team and Jackson remaining as coach would affect his decision to re-sign with the Lakers, he would have been heartily attacked for selfishness. He says one thing publicly and another in private because he’s not strong enough to say how he really feels.
This kind of behavior will bring a lot of hate your way. People will slam you in print and savage you in rap songs. Shaquille is acting like an adolescent with his silly rap songs and I doubt that any NBA player looks forward to playing for a coach who rats out his own players but that doesn’t mean I have a lot of sympathy for Kobe.
I am passionate about sports and passionate about the Lakers but their main guy doesn’t have a lot of heart and soul and that hurts.