People hate Kobe Bryant.
Fans hate Kobe Bryant. Rapist they call him. Selfish they call him. Terrible teammate they call him. They boo him mercilessly in every city.
Then they pay 80 dollars to watch him whenever he comes into town because they know there is a chance he'll drop 61 points and they'll be able to secretly cheer for him—openly if you're in basketball's "mecca."
Coaches hate Kobe Bryant. His own coach, Phil Jackson, spent 100s of pages describing how poor he was a teammate and human being. He blames Kobe for all the downfall of the Lakers and says it was Kobe who forced him into "retirement"
Then Phil Jackson comes back because he wants that 10th title and he knows Kobe is the best path to it.
Then Shaquille publicly admits to wanting to return to Kobe's side in an attempt to win another ring and cement his place in history.
Basketball fans hate Kobe Bryant. They think he's trying to be the next Jordan.
They don't know how right they are.
Kobe Bryant will spend the rest of his career facing and attempting to live up to the Jordan comparison. Since his retirement, the basketball world has been clamoring to find the "next Jordan", only to simultaneously search for every minuscule flaw to separate them.
Kobe is constantly mocked for trying to be like Mike, and yet, we as fans force these comparisons, not him. He changes his number to 24 and now he's trying to announce he's better than Jordan. He goes for 81 and it's because he's trying to top Jordan's 61 in the Boston Garden.
Kobe cheats on his wife and no one makes a Jordan comparison.
Kobe cussed at his teammate and no one mentions that Jordan often came to fists with teammates.
No one mentions Jordan's gambling problems.
No one calls for Jordan's management head; they just top-toe around how poor of a job he's doing and move on.
So why is it that Jordan, who's off court issues are much more atrocious than Kobe Bryant's, is beloved by people all across the world.
Why is it that Jordan can be the most vanilla interview of all time and yet be the most famous athletic face in history?
The answer: "I Wanna Be Like Mike."
One commercial, one advertising campaign, one brilliant marketing strategy involving a shoe and a company created persona protected Michael Jordan from all admonishment. In a poll taken in the early '90s, kids around the world were polled as to who they look up to the most. Michael Jordan was second...to God.
Did the kids in the "Like Mike" commercials know his gambling sprees could make Charles Barkley cringe...No.
Did they know that he often cheated on and berated his wife...No.
Did they know he cared more about winning then he ever did anyone else...No.
But thanks to the 24/7 coverage of sports and how entrenched it's become into pop culture, every kid from seven to seventy knows Kobe Bryant was accused of rape.
If sports were just sports and athletes were judged solely on their athletic achievements alone, comparisons to Jordan would be all well and fine. If that were the case, Kobe would be closer to Jordan than people will ever proudly admit.
Is Kobe Bryant a good person? Perhaps not, but he plays basketball not the Pope. I'm not judging the man for how good he treats his wife. I'm not telling my little brother to be like Kobe Bryant off the court.
I'm simply hoping he wins games for my favorite team. Games. That's all they are. No matter how good you are, being King of Monopoly doesn't give you the right to punch the losers in the face then steal their girlfriends.
Bobby Fischer was the greatest player the game of chess has ever seen. That doesn't overlook the fact that his Anti-Semetic rants would make Mel Gibson blush.
Ty Cobb is one of baseballs greatest players. Does that make his violent, racist infused tirades acceptable?
Do I wanna be like Kobe?
But I sure as hell don't want to be Like Mike either.