Have I got your attention now?
I should preface that headline with a few statements before I truly get into this article.
I do not watch every single NBA game. To state the obvious, that means that I do not watch each and every Los Angeles Lakers game. I watch as many as I can, as they are still the team to beat in my mind, and they are generally featured in many marquee match-ups.
Kobe Bryant is still an elite player in the league. He is still amongst the top 10 in the game today, and may go down as one of the five or six greatest players to ever step foot on the court.
With all that being said, when I watch him play, the first thought that comes to my mind is that he is perhaps one of the laziest players I have ever seen play this game.
Especially where nobody ever calls him out on this negative behavior.
Now, I am hoping to spark quite a debate with this piece. I expect that a few people will agree with me, while the majority of them may disagree and even despise what I am writing. But before you jump all over me in the comments section, at least do me the courtesy of allowing me to explain my sentiments.
Bryant is still a stud in the NBA today, even in his 14th season. That is very impressive. He still averages over 25 points per game for the two time defending champions. He can score with the best of them, and no one can take that away.
But if you watch Bryant now, and I mean really watch him all over the floor, he has become lazy.
Maybe lazy isn't really the best term to describe him; perhaps he appears more disinterested. People jump all over Jay Cutler for how he looked on the sidelines of the NFC Championship game. Actually, I am one of them as well, but that is for another day and article.
But Bryant, at least at times, looks even worse. If something is not going his way, he appears as if he couldn't care less what is going on around him. He shows no interest in anyone else.
Maybe disinterested is too harsh. Maybe it is more of a selfish thing. When he has the ball, he is into the game. When a teammate has the ball on a play that most likely will not involve Bryant, he just sits back and watches the action instead of getting into the action.
After all, we have always known that it is always about Kobe.
Then again, perhaps it is not selfishness. If there is a difference between selfishness, self-involvement and self-absorption, then I'm not sure what fits Bryant the best.
Maybe all of the above.
But after watching so many of his games over the past season or two now, I keep coming back to lazy.
He can still score. But lately, it is simply because he is still an above average shooter. He does not drive to the hoop as often as he did in his prime. He is far more comfortable settling for 20 foot jump shot and praying that half as many fall than miss.
But it isn't his offense. Scoring as many points as he still can is impressive no matter how you cut it, regardless of how many shot attempts it takes him in certain games.
It is his defense that leads me to call him the Lazy Mamba.
Yesterday's game against the Oklahoma City Thunder was very telling. Bryant would be content to simply reach in or around the player he was guarding. If he knocked the ball loose, then great. If not, he allowed his opponent every single time to just go by him and either score or have to be picked up by one of his teammates. Any time he was beaten off the dribble, then the play was over in Bryant's mind.
That is simply inexcusable.
Bryant, like so many stars before him, is a creature of habit. I understand that is must be difficult to play 82 regular season games, knowing that half the league makes the playoffs. Many players as they age will take it easy a bit during the regular season. It has almost become common practice.
Who is the most hated amongst this group?
But there is a big difference between taking a play or two off and playing the laziest defense in the past decade.
Again, that is unjustifiable.
Yet no one calls him out on that. It is almost as if people are scared to say anything about Bryant.
Thankfully, I am not one of those people.
To me, I see Bryant as the ultimate heel of the NBA. Not LeBron James. Not Kevin Garnett. Not even Pau Gasol. It is hands down Bryant who takes the honor.
Bryant is Barry Bonds, Tiger Woods, Michael Vick and Ben Roethlisberger all wrapped into one egomaniac.
No, he has not committed all of the crimes that the aforementioned players have. Although, he is awful with the media, selfish with former teammates, was accused of rape, and is an admitted adulterer.
In my mind, all he is missing is engaging in illegal dogfighting (Vick) and lying about blatant obvious steroid usage (Bonds) and he could be the most hated athlete of the 21st century.
He may not be all of those things. My assessment of Bryant could be too harsh. If you feel that way, then I apologize.
But I will not take back the fact that he should remove the self-proclaimed nickname (which bothers me as well) of the Black Mamba. He is not the longest, most venomous snake in Africa.
He is the Lazy Mamba— the laziest defender in the NBA.
Please feel free to leave whatever comment you feel is appropriate. It would be appreciated if instead of calling me everything in the book, that you put some thought into it and explain your feelings.
Prove me wrong.
Bryant is yet to do so.