Friday, June 11, 2010

The One Thing I Like About Kobe Bryant

My contempt for the Los Angeles Lakers is longstanding and unimpeachable, and because he plays in one of their costumes, I can barely bring myself to acknowledge that Kobe Bryant is anything better than one of history's greatest monsters. Still, I try to wedge some fair-mindedness into my appreciation of sports, so I take exception to this NPR story that exists to report that Kobe Bryant's patience with aspects of NBA super-stardom is finite. The story is mostly concerned with this exchange with reporters after game one of this year's finals:

OK, I could take the cheap and easy here and gab on about how Kobe Bryant doesn't seem to know what surly means. That would be trenchant and stuff! And yet, I will decline, not least because for all I know, he's only feigning as a way to throw off the reporter. Anyway, I suspect he doesn't care what surly means, nor about what the world thinks of his working vocabulary, as he grills the finest of grass-fed steaks for his dogs using piles of wadded-up $100 bills as charcoals.

The NPR story cites the exchange as follows:

[H]is postgame press conference reveals the monochromatic man - pursed lips, flat tone ...

[Reporter]: Do you see yourself as any different than you were a year ago going to the finals? I mean, you were a little surly last year.

KOBE BRYANT: I don't know what that means.

[Reporter]: Kind of short, you know, short.

Mr. BRYANT: Oh, no, I don't know.
I prefer the following interpretation: Kobe Bryant is sometimes "short" -- or if you prefer, "surly" -- with sports reporters because they ask stupid fucking questions that he has no interest in answering. The NBA seems to compel certain "star" players to show up for post-game press conferences of this sort, and his monochromatic, pursed-lipped, flat, surly demeanor suggests he would prefer not to. This unreasonable?

No. I can admire this because it seems genuine. Kobe Bryant's form of "playing the game" is chiefly about playing the game of basketball, including living within the game's odd assumptions that things like scoring, rebounding, passing, defending, managing the clock, winning, and losing actually matter. He doesn't seem inclined to cozy up to sports reporters in hopes of becoming the next player-turned-raconteur-analyst on TNT or ESPN. Nor does he seem to be positioning himself for a future career as a televangelist or right-wing politician, unlike a couple of other famous athletes that spring to mind. This should be counted as a feature, not a bug.

There are better reasons to dislike Kobe Bryant, starting with that costume he wears.

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