"Every time a child says, ‘I don’t believe in fairies,' somewhere there is a fairy that falls down dead." – James Barrie, from the story Peter Pan.
Being a father of two adorable little children, I’m sure Kobe Bryant is well aware of the classic tale of the boy who never grew up. Perhaps this was in the back of his mind when Kobe chastised the fans for booing Kwame Brown in the third quarter of the Lakers' loss to the Suns on Thursday night.
"I thought it was terrible," Kobe Bryant said after the game. "If [fans] want to do that, they can stay home. He's going to be our guy for two months. Kwame's sensitive–you boo him, it's going to affect him. I told him I've got his back."
The fans had come to the point where they could no longer believe in Kwame, so they booed. For Kwame Brown and the Lakers, this was bad. Watching Kwame fumble his way through the third quarter, the fans were practically begging for coach Phil Jackson to hook Kwame from the game. "Captain Hook" didn’t oblige.
Kwame, who lacks in confidence already, could and would be devastated.
Kobe Bryant, aka Peter Pan, the leader of the "lost boys" since Andrew Bynum went down, reacted like the king of Neverland would, defending one of his boys with a firm "stay home!"
If you don’t know who Kwame is or have never seen him play, you can get a pretty good idea if you think of him this way: He’s the Inspector Clouseau of the NBA. He bumbles, stumbles, fumbles, and tumbles his way through the game. He is built like a Greek god, but plays like Disney’s Goofy. He is, "how you say, clumsy. No?" But like Inspector Clouseau, he somehow usually ends up on the winning side.
But back to our story, children. The clever, brave, and talented Kobe knows the Lakers need the "man-boy" Kwame to play well until Andy comes back. If Kobe could, he would sprinkle pixie dust all over Kwame’s body and make him fly through the air, swatting back basketballs and dunking with the best.
But we, and Kobe, all know that is just a fairy tale. With Kwame, we're in Neverland, he will never be the player we want him to be.
But the Lakers need Kwame. And so do we. (I can’t believe I just said that). But we really do. If Kwame doesn’t get his confidence back, then we are sentencing him, the Lakers, and us fans to a long walk off a short plank. Our marvelous season and hopes will be fed to the crocodiles.
I look at it this way. The Lakers' fans have two choices.
One, we can continue to boo Kwame. Boo when he is introduced. Boo whenever he touches the ball. Boo whenever he makes a mistake. Saying in effect, "I don’t believe in Kwame" as we watch him fall down dead. Then we can all boo-hoo as we watch our season fall down dead.
"Do you believe in fairies? If you believe, clap your hands."
-James M. Barrie, Peter Pan
If we follow our leader Peter, I mean Kobe, then say "I believe in Kwame" and clap. Please, I’m begging you, even if you don’t believe, clap.
Fans at the game, on the blogs, in front of their televisions, fans everywhere, all over the world, starting tonight, say "I believe in Kwame,"
Then clap hard, clap loud, clap long.
And cheer Kwame and the Lakers on.
Author's note: This article was written with help from my wife Laurie, for the Lakers children all over the world.