It's no secret that Kobe Bryant is the most polarizing figure in the National Basketball Association, or at least he was until the whole "South Beach" development.
Let's just call it a close contest for now. With all the amazing moments Kobe has brought to the NBA and its fans, there has also been a few...unflattering moments. Then there's a few poor choices, some simple facts, and one giant fiasco.
I decided to tackle this project to shed some unbiased light on each of these incidents and facts. This is also not to tear Kobe down or start a platform to bash him, Kobe's been my favorite player since 1996.
Everyone makes mistakes, and many professional athletes have made very similar ones as Kobe's. For the dedicated Lakers/Kobe fans, this may not be fun to re-live. For haters this should be a gold mine. But for people who have an open mind, it should also be educational.
Well, here we go...
Let's start this off light.
With very few exceptions, Kobe Bryant has no friends in the NBA outside of the Los Angeles Lakers. His ultra-competitive nature simply will not allow it. He doesn't want to hear Dwight Howard's latest joke, or make dinner plans with Wade for after the game.
Heck, Kobe hardly wants to shake your hand before tip-off. Kobe's not in the game to make friends, he's there to win. I have to admit that as controversial as his approach may seem, it also seems to work for him.
If Kobe is not your friend, it means he can destroy you. He can use all his weapons and moves to win the game at any cost, feeling no remorse that he just crushed your dreams. This strategy has made him a multiple championship winner, but didn't land him on too many superstar's fave-fives.
These facts about Kobe Bryant lead us to the first reason you may loathe him. At one point or another, Kobe has probably had a feud with your favorite NBA player. Be it Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Lebron James, Raja Bell, Shaquille O'neal, and the list goes on for miles.
If this is why you cannot stand Kobe Bryant, then I can respect that. After all, you have to be loyal to your team and players. Did I mention how I can't stand Paul Pierce? Haha.
This section may seem similar to the last, but this is more along the lines of what happens when Kobe Bryant leaves the court.
See, it's not just with players that Kobe Bryant often seems distant. After a game it's not uncommon for Kobe to only manage a few words about the game, and most of the time they are merely variations of the same thought. "We're just glad we got the win, one game at a time, and I think we played well as a team out there."
Don't get me wrong, Kobe Bryant has a brilliant and witty personality. What makes him so captivating to listen to, is that he so rarely gives us a taste. When you do get a juicy quote from Kobe, it's worth more than a speech any other player could have given you.
Still some people take this approach to the media as "cold, and stubborn." Chris Rock seemed to be okay with the fact that Kobe straight up ignored him during a finals game, but I would bet in truth he found it a bit odd.
This demeanor he has will continue to put people off who are not his loyal fans, but there is nothing Kobe can do about it. He is simply wired to win, and be the ultimate competitor. If you want an NBA BFF, you'd have better luck with the likes of Wade, Howard, or James.
This will always be up for debate, but this one is where I really feel for Kobe.
After the departure of Shaq, Bryant was left with a cast of less than desirable starters. The problem was Kobe's drive to win remained unchanged, and it drove Kobe to attempt carrying the entire team on his back. (Which he basically did) Kobe was taking more shots than ever, and leading the NBA in scoring. This caused people to label him a "bad teammate, a ball hog."
But really, what choice did he have?
What would you do if you had Jordan like talent, and were surrounded by Kwame Brown, Smush Parker, and Chris Mihm?
Then the unthinkable happened.
Pau Gasol wound up on the Lakers a few short years later, along with the return of Derek Fisher from his stint with the Jazz/Warriors. All of the sudden the Lakers weren't looking so bad.
Andrew Bynum emerged as a likely double-double per night, and Kobe suddenly had many people to pass to. His points-per-game went down dramatically, and his image seemed to improve after leading L.A. to the finals in 2008.
There were still many instances however when Kobe would focus much more on facilitating the ball to his team, than finding his own shots.
Funny how whenever he tried to get the team involved he was later criticized for "Not taking charge, or quitting on his team." Seems either way Kobe would go he would have his critics. Shoot too much, and you're a ball hog, shoot to little and you are the reason LA struggled to score. These days he plays a pretty balanced game between scoring and passing, but Kobe will take heat from someone no matter what kind of teammate he is.
We are all guilty of hating a few players for this reason.
For me in the past, it was Tim Duncan. I hated how he led the Spurs many times to interrupt my Lakers championships. I hated how stale his style of play was, and how it was so reliable. What I hated most however, was how good he was, and how he was the guy standing between my team and a title.
For many of you readers out there, that man has been Kobe Bryant for some time now (Although it seems to be fluxing toward Lebron James).
You have faith in your team as any fan should, but if you're in the West you know they have Kobe to face to escape the conference. No matter how much faith you have, this has to worry you.
Both Magic and Celtics fans know how it feels now to be "one Kobe away" from having a title on their shelves in recent years. And why wouldn't you hate a guy that year after year kicks you out of the playoffs? I don't think Jazz fans have trouble with the concept.
I honestly don't blame you if this reason fuels your fire against Kobe, because we have all been there.
After the split with Shaq, everything went south with the Lakers.
And I do mean, everything.
Shaq was on his way to Miami, Fisher decided to give the Warriors a try, Phil Jackson was running for the hills, and Kobe was left in metaphorical ruins. It would soon get worse for Mr. Bryant, as Phil Jackson decided to write a book, The Last Season.
The book came out, and the press had a field day with sections that literally picked apart Kobe Bryant. Phil Jackson claimed in his book that Bryant was "Un-coachable." That he was too stubborn, and would often go against the grain of the team. These comments from Phil solidified what most people had been suspecting of Kobe for a long time, and added to their distaste toward him.
Bryant was vindicated however less than one year later, as Phil Jackson returned once again to coach the Los Angeles Lakers through another season. Jackson retracted some of his comments about Bryant later on, and along with his presence back in the coaching position it somewhat cleared Kobe's name on the subject.
If he was really so horrible to coach, why would Phil come back so quickly?
Out of every reason to hate Kobe, this one makes me laugh the most.
I can see how if all you heard was the rumor and you never checked to see how accurate it was, this would be a good reason to hate him. If it were true, it would mean that he possibly broke up what could have been the biggest dynasty ever right?
Only problem with this rumor, is that is all it is.
There is little to no credence to this statement at all in fact. The truth was that Kobe and Shaq were feuding, of course they were. It was management however, that broke up the team that had very recently three-peated,
Shaq was due for a new contract come the end of the offseason, and the bitter truth is that Jerry Buss had no desire to re-sign Shaq for max dollars when he was noticeably starting to age. The decision was made from on high to scrap Shaq while they could still get some value in the trade, and rebuild the Lakers roster around smoldering young talent Kobe Bryant.
Buss pulled the trigger on what could have certainly been a better deal for the Lakers (Odom,Butler, and Brian Grant?), and the rest is a media spin job that targeted Kobe Bryant, since of course he was the one still in "la la land."
Shaq fans can pout all they want about what happened. But if he was the one they kept and they chucked Kobe instead, you can bet Shaq would have been blamed for kicking the future star out just the same.
This was definitely a mistake by Kobe, but not the end of the world.
Everyone in and around the NBA knew by now that Kobe had/has a hot temper. If they didn't, this confirmed it.
Kobe had been dissatisfied with the Lakers attempts to surround him with talent, and was unusually upset about it one day when he heard that the Lakers passed up a chance to get living Legend Jason Kidd for the then-lowly Andrew Bynum.
So how does he handle it?
The worst way possible.
He actually says on camera that he can't believe LA didn't pull the trigger on the deal saying "for Bynum? Who is that kid anyway?" Kobe thought Bynum was very expendable, and the media and fans alike thought he was a jerk.
Kobe and Bynum seemed to have bonded a great deal since that day years ago, and it turns out that Bynum is pretty valuable to this franchise after all.
This mis-step by Bryant was nothing short of panic for Laker fans the World over.
Kobe Bryant reached the end of his rope with the Los Angeles Lakers, and publicly requested a trade on a morning radio show. He stated clearly that his frustration with management had reached a boil, and that he would like to explore the option of playing for another team.
Only a few hours would pass before Bryant would announce that he did not in fact want a trade, and that he was simply caught up in the moment. These words from him did not calm people down however.
Not in the slightest.
Laker fans might as well have never heard his retraction, because they now had doubts that could not be erased by an apology. Rumors soon began to swirl about Kobe working out with the Clippers staff, and his interest in possibly joining the bulls. These rumors simmered a bit as the Lakers built a nice record with a rapidly improving Bynum. Pau Gasol was introduced about mid-season, and the rest as they say is history.
The irony in this situation is that Laker fans (the ones who should have been most angry) forgave their captain, as he did have a decent point. The crowd that used this as a way to hate Kobe, were the ones who already did. They claimed that this showed that Kobe wasn't as loyal as his fans thought, and that he was a diva for demanding such outlandish things from management.
The latest reason on the block to hate and discredit Kobe, is that he shot poorly in Game 7 of this year's finals.
This lead to some claiming that because of that he shouldn't have gotten the finals MVP award.
Now that's ridiculous.
Everyone goes cold with their jump-shots. Even Kobe Bryant. People just expect him to be so perfect that when he has a poor outing, suddenly he's "nowhere near the shooter Jordan was."
This is funny because Jordan had his share of terrible playoff shooting nights as well.
Kobe realized he wasn't shooting well, so he dug in everywhere else. He played stellar defense, grabbed 15 boards, and oh yeah...hit the big two that swung the momentum back to LA for good.
Would it have been more of an exclamation point if Kobe shot lights out in that game?
But does he really deserve to be crucified for what happened?
They did win right?
And we have arrived to the No. 1 reason Kobe Bryant is hated.
The Colorado incident in which Kobe Bryant was accused of raping a hotel employee was catastrophic to Bryant's reputation. It halted his basketball career in mere moments, altered the entire NBA's opinion of him, scared off many of his lucrative endorsements, and made him public enemy No. 1 for women the world over.
His game didn't seem to suffer too badly, as he dropped monstrous games on opponents mere moments after leaving trial for months on end. His image however continued to suffer as the case lingered on.
The case ended without a conviction on Bryant after the accuser declined to testify, but the damage had already been done. In the minds of millions he would forever be known as a rapist.
This is really too bad, because justice was not fully served. Had he beaten the case straight up, he may have earned more credibility back.
One thing is for sure, one incident turned the world against him overnight. Kobe will now spend the rest of his life earning back everyone's trust.
Kobe Bryant has made some mistakes, that much is for sure.
These mistakes have made many people hate him, sometimes on baseless grounds.
The point I'm trying to make with this is we all make mistakes, and do things we later regret. If you hate Kobe because he plays against your team, that's fine. But hating someone for things you can't prove doesn't solve anything, and also says a lot about who you are as well.
So until next time, remember to have a heart, and enjoy the basketball!