Kobe Bryant's 'Gay Slur' and the 10 Stupidest Moments of His Career
There are many ways to describe the life and times of Kobe Bryant.
Some have heralded him as the greatest player to ever play for the Los Angeles Lakers, arguably the most storied franchise in NBA history. Plenty of cases have also been made for anointing Kobe as one of the five best basketball players of all time.
However, like any truly polarizing public figure, Kobe has many more detractors than supporters, and for good reasons. There are certainly plenty of basketball fans who despise Kobe for exercising his greatness against their favorite teams (i.e. the Sacramento Kings, the Boston Celtics, and so on).
Then, there are those whose hatred of the Black Mamba stems from the wide range of misdeeds committed by Bryant over the course of his career—"Kobe Haters," as they're referred to by Kobe fans and Laker Nation.
It is this group in particular that figures to take comfort in this list—a breakdown of the 10 worst moments of Kobe's long and winding career.
From Bryant's recent anti-gay slur towards an official all the way back to his days as a rambunctious young buck looking for a fight every night on the court, there's certainly no shortage of shenanigans for which one might choose to take umbrage with Kobe.
Read on for a glimpse at a handful of the dumbest.
10. Kobe Tussles with Reggie Miller
We begin our investigation of Kobe Bryant's transgressions in early March of 2002, when a 23-year-old Bryant engaged in a round of fisticuffs with the considerably older and skinnier Reggie Miller.
Miller, well-known for getting under the skin of his opposition during games, likely rubbed the hot-headed young Mamba the wrong way to provoke to conflict, or perhaps it was the three-pointer that Bryant decided to throw up at the end of the game, despite the fact that the Lakers had the victory well in hand.
The NBA didn't seem to care much either way. Both players received two-game suspensions and fines, though Kobe's fine ($12,500) was marginally larger than Reggie's ($10,000).
Notice current Laker and former Indiana Pacers nutcase Ron Artest, who jumps right into the mix. You can almost hear Ron-Ron suck(er punch)ing up to Kobe even back then.
9. The Black Mamba Bites Back Against Chris Childs
Shortly before Kobe ever won his first NBA championship ring, he landed his very first NBA in-game punch.
It was a lovely Sunday in late April of 2000 when Bryant, barely old enough to drink, garnered a one-game suspension and a $5,000 fine for brawling with Chris Childs, then a guard for the New York Knicks.
Though Kobe got the brunt of the physical punishment, Childs caught most of commissioner David Stern's wrath from this confrontation, losing two games to suspension along with $15,000 in fines.
So what makes this moment so stupid for Kobe? Simple: He got clocked by a guy who was easily four inches shorter than him.
8. The Mamba vs. the Mailman
Lakers fans will remember, with some trepidation, the one season Kobe Bryant and Karl Malone played together on the Lakers, during which they reached the NBA Finals but lost to the Detroit Pistons in five games in what ultimately was the swan song of the Shaquille O'Neal-Kobe Bryant era in Los Angeles.
Those same fans will also likely recall the war of words between the Black Mamba and the Mailman that became something of a public spectacle for the sports media.
The feud began when Malone allegedly made a pass at Kobe's wife Vanessa, to which the Bryants took some offense. Prior to the incident, the Malones and the Bryants had, by their own evaluation, become quite close, with Kobe telling reporters amidst the debacle, "The comments that [Malone] said, I don't know any man in this room that wouldn't be upset about that. The past month, myself, my wife, [Malone's wife] Kay, we've had fun together. We've been out to their house, just joking around, giving each other a hard time, just clowning, being sarcastic with one another, baby-sitting kids and all that."
Apparently, Karl took the joking a bit too far, which Kobe didn't take too kindly. According to Kobe's camp, Malone made passes at Kobe's wife over the phone, implying that they should engage in extramarital tomfoolery.
Dwight Manley, Malone's agent, painted a slightly less scathing, though nonetheless entertaining, scenario in which Vanessa Bryant, commenting on Malone's cowboy hat and boots, asked Karl, "Hey, cowboy, what are you hunting?", to which he responded "I'm hunting for little Mexican girls."
Okay, so neither account did much for Malone's image, and perhaps he's the one most deserving of a demerit on this occasion, but Kobe still deserves at least some flack for picking a fight with an NBA legend.
7. Bryant Mails It in Against the Phoenix Suns in the Playoffs
Kobe endured some particularly rough years in the public eye between Shaq's departure in 2004 and Pau Gasol's arrival in 2007.
While Bryant was plagued by plenty of negative publicity off the court throughout the "Blue Period" of his career, his greatest on-court folly came during the 2006 NBA Playoffs, when the Lakers, back in the playoffs with Phil Jackson at the helm following the Rudy Tomjanovich debacle, pushed league MVP Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns to the brink of elimination in the first round with a 3-1 series advantage before ultimately collapsing in Game 7.
Kobe played exceedingly well for the vast majority of the series, averaging 27.9 points per game while leading LA to the brink of a first-round upset.
And then came the stupidity. For whatever reason, Bryant went AWOL in Game 7, hoisting only three shots in the second half as the Lakers got walloped, 121-90.
Maybe he thought Smush Parker would carry the team to the second round?
6. Kobe Tries His Hand at Hip-Hop...and Fails...Miserably
There are some mistakes for which Kobe can be forgiven but won't be soon forgotten.
His short-lived rap career is one such mistake.
In 2000, while riding the wave of publicity from earning his first championship ring, Bryant decided, with considerable naivete, to try his hand at a career in music.
And who could blame him? Shaq, his teammate at the time, had done so well as a recording artist; why couldn't he?
Well, clearly Kobe didn't listen closely enough to the junkyard masterpieces that The Big Aristotle had put together, though Bryant's foray into hip hop made Shaq's seem moderately reasonable.
With Tyra Banks as his collaborator, Bryant recorded his debut album, entitled "Visions," from which came the "smash" single "K.O.B.E.," seen above.
Needless to say, Kobe's career as an MC didn't last long, as he quickly realized that he was, in fact, much better at basketball and funneled his musical creativity (what little of it he had) back into his dominance on the court.
5. Bryant Pushes Shaq and Phil Jackson out of LA
Now, mimicking Shaquille O'Neal's musical career was one thing; forcing Shaq out of LA left an entirely different and more indelible stain on Kobe's record.
The Lakers entered the summer of 2004 with some tough decisions to make, many of which seemingly stemmed from Bryant. At 25 years of age, Kobe was set to hit the open market for the first time as arguably the most significant free agent outside of Shaq eight years prior.
With the prime of his career ahead of him and a cozy relationship with Lakers owner Jerry Buss, Bryant allegedly left general manager Mitch Kupchak with the most unenviable of ultimatums: trade Shaq or I sign elsewhere.
Mind you, O'Neal had been the cornerstone of LA's decade-starting three-peat; if anything, logic would suggest that Kobe would have urged Kupchak to extend Shaq's deal to keep the championship runs alive, even though Shaq was already pushing 32.
Then again, the relationship between Bryant and O'Neal had grown more and more abrasive as time went on, with the Lakers locker room seemingly not big enough to handle two gigantic egos at once.
So, at Buss' behest, Kupchak swapped Shaq to Miami for Lamar Odom, Brian Grant, Caron Butler and a first-round draft pick and, for good measure and presumably at Bryant's request, did not re-sign Phil Jackson, whose deal expired at the end of the season.
The following year, the Kobe-led Lakers missed the playoffs for the first time in a decade, while Shaq's Heat went on to win the NBA title in 2006.
4. Bryant Goes Live on YouTube Dissing Andrew Bynum
Though Bryant's culpability in Shaq's exit from Los Angeles is somewhat difficult to corroborate, his own feelings about the Lakers three years later are not.
In May of 2007, after his Lakers were dispatched from the NBA Playoffs by the Suns for the second year in a row, Bryant was caught on tape in a parking lot in Newport Beach near his home, slamming the Lakers front office for not trading young center Andrew Bynum for Jason Kidd at the trade deadline and imploring Mitch Kupchak to "ship his a** out."
As one might expect, those comments didn't exactly sit well with team management and led to yet another firestorm of media criticism—just what he and the Lakers needed.
Luckily for everyone involved, Kupchak held on to Bynum, who has since been an integral part of LA's back-to-back titles and whose presence will be vital to capping off another three-peat this spring.
Warning: the video contains strong language.
3. Kobe Flip-Flops on Trade Demands
That particular video was preceded by yet another public fiasco involving Kobe Bryant and trade demands, though this one was considerably more visible and more jarring than the other.
Rumors circulated in late May of 2007 that Bryant had demanded a trade if the Lakers didn't bring back Jerry West as the team's general manager. Kobe later confirmed that he indeed wanted "The Logo" to come back, though he denied ever trying to force a trade if that condition was not met.
A few days later, Kobe went public with his desire to be traded in an interview with loud-mouthed commentator Stephen A. Smith on Smith's radio show and tepidly reiterated his desire to leave LA on Dan Patrick's radio show thereafter.
And mere hours after that, Kobe stated publicly, on yet another radio show, that, after conferring with the Zenmaster himself, he did not actually want to leave.
For a full and succinct breakdown of that crazy day in Kobe, check out the video above.
2. Mamba Spits Gay Slur at Official
Kobe's latest transgression checks in at No. 2 on this list.
One would think that by now, at 32 years old and after years of enduring media scrutiny for the boneheaded things he's said and done, Kobe would've had the self-awareness to know that shouting out a slur of any kind at anyone during a game would blow up in his face.
Well, Kobe demonstrated otherwise when, in the midst of the Lakers' second-to-last game of the 2011 regular season against the San Antonio Spurs, blurted out a homophobic slur that was caught on camera by the good folks at TNT.
To put it all in context, Kobe had just been assessed a technical foul by referee Bennie Adams and responded, as usual, with a bit of visible and audible anger. Bryant then attempted to get Adams' attention from the bench, and when Adams rebuffed him, Kobe then muttered the aforementioned slur, though not far enough under his breath that his lips could not be easily read.
In response to the incident, the league slapped Kobe with a $100,000 fine, though it spared him a suspension.
Instead, the Lakers made him the centerpiece of an enlightening public service announcement, entitled "Words Can Be Hurtful."
Only time will tell if Kobe heeds that advice.
1. Kobe Goes to Trial
No list of grievances against Kobe Bryant would be complete without at least mentioning the sexual assault charges from the summer of 2003—if not giving the incident top billing.
Bryant was accused of sexually assaulting an employee of the Lodge and Spa at Cordillera just outside of Eagle, Colorado on July 1st, the night before he was scheduled to undergo offseason surgery.
Kobe surrendered to the Eagle police on July 4th and was formally charged on July 18th, after which Bryant held a news conference at which he denied raping the plaintiff—19-year-old Katelyn Faber—and apologized for his adulterous behavior with his wife Vanessa, sporting a brand-new diamond ring, by his side.
From that point proceeded a long and arduous series of criminal and civil proceedings, with Kobe's lawyers calling into question Faber's character at every turn. The criminal charges were eventually dismissed in September of 2004 when Faber refused to testify, though the civil trial concluded with an out-of-court settlement of undisclosed terms.
The whole fiasco tarnished Kobe's more-or-less sterling reputation considerably and cost him a number of lucrative endorsements, including his shoe deal with Adidas. Kobe has since signed with Nike and recouped the majority of his endorsement deals, along with an NBA MVP and two more rings, though he won't likely ever find much comfort in the state of Colorado for the rest of his life.