Over the last week and a half, my television has been bombarded with stories on Kobe Bryant. Each one espoused the terrific qualities he exhibited with regards to leadership, athletics, and values.
Pardon me for being the proverbial turd in the punch bowl on this one. I agree that Bryant is an amazingly talented player with scoring ability paralleled only by LeBron James in today’s game. But the idea that he is a leader of men on this team is laughable. And those that can give solid reasons as to how he exhibits positive values in his personal life should be viewed skeptically.
We all know Bryant’s resume on the court. He can score at will and takes games over when he is needed. He is an All-NBA first team offensive player and has been named to the All-NBA defensive team as well.
Watching the manner in which Phil Jackson has used him against the Celtics, I would also contend that he is one of the better help defenders in the league. Despite the impact that Kevin Garnett had on the Celtics, they were still, arguably, a playoff team with only Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.
The Lakers without Kobe would be the Clippers. His supporting cast has been awful. Lamar Odom has provided some value, but Bryant is the show. As he goes, so goes his team. Bryant is in my top-20 players of all-time and he is worth the price of admission to any game.
You just never know what you could see out of him. He has that potential to drop 50 or 60 points on any given night against any team in the league. Not one person can argue these points.
My problem comes in the other two pieces that ABC and ESPN are flashing on the screen at the audience at every chance. Every puff-piece brags about how Bryant is “one of the guys” and how he is an amazing leader on the court and in the locker room.
I do not see it. I see a guy that glares at his teammates when they miss a pass. I see a guy that stares people down when he does not touch the ball on a possession, regardless of whether or not the Lakers score.
Curt Schilling wrote in his blog that Bryant spent the better part of his time on the court yelling at and berating his teammates. Schilling’s right. You can see it in every single expression on Bryant’s face.
Bryant is in great spirits when things are going well, but takes no responsibility when the going gets tough. Rather than rally the troops, he makes sure they know that it is not his doing that the team is behind.
Stepping back further, do leaders ask for trades or threaten to skip training camp? Do leaders have their coaches write books that destroy their image? More recently, do leaders walk off the floor three seconds prior to the end of a game (game four of the finals)?
More egregious, though, are the continued reminders of Bryant’s family values. Time to examine this one. Bryant was accused of rape in Colorado. I stress, he was accused and not found guilty. The settlement was out of court and there was no admission on either side as a result of it. That said, in a best-case scenario, Bryant cheated on his wife if for nothing else than because he could.
I do not know of many people who have committed adultery that we call great family men or that we espouse their virtues. We certainly have not for Roger Clemens.
Additionally, whether or not he was joking, his comments following game four stated that he would drown his sorrows in “shots, maybe about 20 of ‘em.” Certainly, these are not the comments of a role model.
Kobe Bryant is a fantastic basketball player. He is one of the greatest the game has ever seen. But, when it comes to leadership, Bryant is not what he is being portrayed to be.