Now the first question you should have asked yourself is, "Does a player of the caliber of Kobe Bryant really need defending?" I mean his resume speaks for itself. He's a 5 time champion, 2 time finals MVP, regular season MVP, 12 time all star (would be 13 if not for the 1999 lockout), 3 time all star game MVP, 8 time All-NBA first team (12 times overall), 8 time All-NBA Defensive first team (10 times overall), 2 time scoring champion, alpha dog on a loaded Gold Medal team (AND YOU CAN'T TELL ME OTHERWISE), as well as the Lakers all time leading scorer (regular season and playoffs); he's a guy who scored 50+ points in 4 straight games, a player who once scored 62 points in 3 quarters, and then followed it up a month later with an 81 point performance. Yes, that was in the same season; the guy could have had 80 twice in one season!
What's more is that these are only the tangibles, the residue of hard work and focus. Announcers and columnists throw around words like "work ethic," "competitive fire," and "greatness" so often, that the few players for whom these descriptions are truly meant for are taken for granted. The guy is a winner, a competitor, and he always showed up. And the exciting thing is that he's not done yet. If you read this article in a few years, you wouldn't be surprised to see these numbers outdated (especially since the guy who wrote this is too lazy to update things; I mean I typed this up on notepad). It wouldn't be inconceivable to add on another 1 or 2 or 3 to any of those categories. So the question again is..."Does the greatness of Kobe Bryant really need to be defended?" And the answer is "No!" Sort of...
Kobe Bryant has been described by one word more than any for almost his entire career....polarizing. In science, a polar molecule is basically a molecule which has an unequal separation of charge. It has a partial positive charge on a certain atom and a partial negative charge on another, because one atom exerts a stronger "pull" on the charge (electrons). In the descriptive connotation when it comes to Bryant, it almost means the same thing, in that he is an athlete whose fan base is heavily separated....polarized...with positive and negative divisions. Snake venom from a Black Mamba is also polar.
[No, I just made that up, but it might be (Anyone know? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?). Mamba poison is a dendrotoxin, a neurotoxin which, simply put, prolongs regular interaction of your muscle neurons, causing convulsive actions, paralysis, and eventually death (Enough with the science lecture? You got it). One last thing though....if anyone really wanted to challenge Kobe Bryant's throne, they would have to be nicknamed "The Mongoose," because a mongoose is unaffected by Mamba venom (Wikipedia said so. OK, I'm done. I swear)].
Throughout the years, the affection for Bryant has been polarized; he came into the league as the next superstar, the next Michael Jordan-esque player, a label that was handed out to so many (Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, Harold Miner??!!). The basketball world loved him at first, hated him during his trial and the post Shaq years, and has now come back again (for the most part) to liking him again, or at least realizing that he's a supreme talent. Laker fans have stuck with him through it all. When everybody hated Kobe Bryant, we still loved him as a player, and didn't care about anything else....he was and is our guy.
Laker fans don't defend Kobe Bryant only because so many people seem to despise him, whether as a player, a person, or both. None of us really know him but we defend him because he is our legend....it all comes down to that word...legend. In a Bronx tale, Sonny, the neighborhood boss, tells Colagero, "If your dad needs money, go ask Mickey Mantle. See what happens. Mickey Mantle don't care about you. Why care about him?" But see, it's not that fans actually believe that a player cares about us, nor do we want them too. The sad (or not so sad, depending on how you look at it) truth is that we don't REALLY care about the person, only the player, and what we care more about than the player, is his mark on the game. So when it comes to Laker fans and Kobe, the truth is that all we care about is his legacy. We know we are witnessing greatness, and that means more than anything. Every sports fan wants to believe that his favorite player is great, and he or she will defend his "greatness" to the death. In the case of Kobe, Laker fans want to believe he is a great player (and undoubtedly he is <---SEE!), so there is no way in hell they will allow anyone to say different. We all want to be witness to greatness, because it is something that is so seldom achieved, and mostly because we will probably never be as great at something as a player like Kobe is at basketball, or Federer is at tennis, or any other great player is in his/her respective sport. This is why older fans defend their generation's players...because they want to believe that they watched something that was extraordinary...because it's hard to be that good at something. If you think you're great at something and you haven't worked your entire life at it....chances are you're not really that great at it (I think I'm a great writer and this is my second post. Moral of the story...I'm not that great a writer. Good writer? Gimme that much. No? Fine, I'll settle for "I can almost bear to read what you write but you better finish up soon").
So the point (because I finally decided to make one) is that Laker fans, including myself, want everyone to believe that the guy we are watching, the superstar of our team, the "basketball maestro" as Spero Dedes would call him, is a guy who will be missed when he is gone. And with Kobe, even though his legacy needs no defense at all, we will always defend him. We'll sneer at your declaration that he sucks; we'll tell you that he's led his team in assists for almost his entire career when you tell us he's a ball hog, and we'll always, always, always stick his 81 point game in your face...and his 5 rings! Why? Because we want to solidify the fact that we are watching a great basketball player, because we really are (<--again), and you can't tell me otherwise.
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