Kobe Bryant: Why His Call Of Duty Black Ops Commercial Cameo Was Genius

Adam LazarusSenior Analyst INovember 19, 2010

Kobe Bryant: Why His Call Of Duty Black Ops Commercial Cameo Was Genius

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    Kobe Bryant: Black Ops appearance was genius.

    We probably shouldn't be that surprised, but Kobe Bryant is catching a whole lot of flak for appearing as a machine gun-toting video game player in the newest commercial for Call of Duty: Black Ops—although no one seems to be angry at Jimmy Kimmel for doing the ad.

    On ESPN First Take, Skip Bayless bashed the decision to participate in the advertisement. What else is new? He doesn't like anything popular.

    We don't think it was a bad or misguided decision. In fact, it was a pretty excellent decision.

    Here's why.

No. 10: It Was Cool

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    I don't play Call of Duty. Never have.

    But the combination of Kobe, a war-torn Jimmy Kimmel and the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter" made me want to go out and buy the game.

    It was just a cool and clever commercial. Part of the reason people play these games is to feel like they are experiencing the action on television. So showing regular people, and celebrities, in the action, was a neat way to do that.

    It wasn't your standard product endorsement ad. It made you think for a moment: Why is this corporate woman in heels carrying a machine gun in some battlefield? Same with Jimmy Kimmel. Same with an ice cream man or whatever he is.

No. 9: Controversy Sells

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    MILWAUKEE - NOVEMBER 16: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute #12 of the Milwaukee Bucks strips the ball from Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers at the Bradley Center on November 16, 2010 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and a
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Kobe doesn't necessarily benefit from this angle; the video game's producers and manufacturers do.

    Still, that is why the entire campaign was genius for everyone involved.

    Controversy sells—or it at least gets publicity. If no news is bad news, then Call of Duty: Black Ops is getting a free advertisement here on Bleacher Report, on ESPN, on CNN and in hundreds of editorials across the Internet and newspapers. That should boost sales.

    Yes, the commercial is a bit violent, even morbid. But the only people who that would discourage from buying the game are the people who would never buy the game anyway.

No. 8: Showing a Fun Side

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    LOS ANGELES - NOVEMBER 15: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers complains to a referee just before receiving a technical foul in the game against the Golden State Warriors on December 29, 2009 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.  The Lakers
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    In some ways, basketball has been Kobe's entire life. His dad played in the NBA and Europe, and he was raised abroad while his father continued his career.

    He probably spent more time on the basketball court than the playground, and since he went straight from high school to the NBA, his life seems to be about basketball and little else.

    Bryant's drive and desire to be the best (either to show up Michael Jordan or Shaq or whomever) is pretty legendary. He has a serious intensity that is always captured on camera during games—yelling at teammates or complaining about bad calls.

    The Black Ops ad showed another side of him. It showed that maybe he is a little more of a "regular guy" than we thought. He makes so much money, lives such a lavish lifestyle and plays basketball in Hollywood in front of Jack Nicholson, but seeing that he plays the same video game as "Joe Schmo" makes him seem less singular and "more like us."

No. 7: Rebelling

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 06:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts as he anwers questions from the media durinng the post game press conference after the Lakers lost 103-94 against the Boston Celtics in Game Two of the 2010 NBA Finals at Staples
    Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

    It's not quite as buttoned up as the NFL, but the NBA has started to over-police its players.

    The press conference dress code implemented by commissioner David Stern was probably the most overt action. But with ticket prices becoming so pricey and corporations now buying far more tickets/skyboxes than "regular" fans, the league has tried to streamline a particular straight-laced image.

    There's no Dennis Rodman, Vernon Maxwell or bar-fighting Charles Barkley around anymore; even Ron Artest has been quiet for a while now.

    It's not much, and it might not have been intentional, but Kobe appearing in this "controversial" ad is a bit of a "screw you" to the league and its attempt to quiet its players and force them to conform.

No. 6: A New Generation

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    PHOENIX - FEBRUARY 15:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Western Conference walks across the court in front of LeBron James #23 of the Eastern Conference during the 58th NBA All-Star Game, part of 2009 NBA All-Star Weekend at US Airways Center on February 15, 2009
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    Kobe just turned 32 a few months ago. That certainly isn't "old," but think about how long ago he entered the NBA.

    It was 1996: Bill Clinton was in his FIRST term as president, Biggie Smalls was still alive and you were still carrying around a Walkman...or at best a portable CD player.

    In short, that was a long time ago.

    Kobe is certainly still relevant today; considering he has five rings, he's the league's biggest star.

    But there are younger fans who have to look at him as "the old guard." With LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, etc., there are a whole slew of great players who aren't in their thirties.

    Participating in a video game ad (not NBA Live or NBA 2kWhatever) does make Kobe look a bit (and yes, I'm aware of how horrible this sounds) "hip" and appealing to the younger generation.

No. 5: MJ Wouldn't Do It

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    ATLANTA - FEBRUARY 9:  Michael Jordan (Washington Wizards) #23 of the Eastern Conference All-Stars talks with Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers) #8 of the Western Conference All-Stars at the 2003 NBA All-Star Game on February 9, 2003 at Philips Arena in Atl
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    No matter what, Kobe is going to be compared to Michael Jordan. Whether it's now or when his career is over, their overall stats will be compared side by side for a long time.

    There are always going to be those (not Mark Jackson) who would choose MJ over Kobe every day of the week. Bryant could win 10 rings and break all of Jordan's records, and that wouldn't be enough to some people.

    So there is always this perception that Kobe is following in Jordan's footsteps, trying to emulate him—even if it's not true.

    Well, it's pretty safe to say that Michael Jordan would never have appeared in this Black Ops ad if the game was around in the early 1990s.

    Jordan did everything he could to avoid making political statements, social commentary or controversy in general. Kobe hasn't been quite as adept at that, whether it's what happened in Eagle, Colorado or his feud with Shaq and/or Phil Jackson.

    By design or not, Kobe sort of one-ups MJ in this case. He seems to be "his own man" in this case, not caring and taking the Charles Barkley "I'm not a role model" approach.

No. 4: He Can't Win—Might As Well Do What He Wants

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    DENVER - NOVEMBER 11:  A detail of the jersey and tattoo of Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers as they face the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on November 11, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Lakers 118-112.  NOTE TO USER: Use
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Bryant had to know that participating in this commercial would stir up some debate.

    But not participating in it for that very reason sparks another debate: the one about whether or not athletes are role models and whether they should do what the public wants them to do.

    LeBron just made that issue abundantly clear in his Nike commercial, something Charles Barkley did in the mid 1990s.

    Like anyone, Kobe can please all of the people some of the time, and some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time.

    If this was what he wanted to do because he thought it was fun or clever, then he might as well do it. Not doing it because of perceived pressure from ESPN or focus groups makes him look/feel like he's just trying to do what others want him to do.

No. 3: It's Just a Video Game

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    Kobe and his managers/agents/publicists probably expected him to catch some flak for being in this advertisement.

    Likewise, the Call of Duty creators probably knew that this particular type of machine gun/grenades/explosives heavy commercial would stir up complaints.

    But they do have an easy out when invariably the press or politicians or whoever else likes to complain speak out: "It's just a video game."

    This wasn't Bryant speaking out politically in favor of some controversial amendment or bill. It wasn't him donating money or doing an endorsement for some embattled politician. This isn't nearly as bad as him endorsing clothing or footwear products manufactured with cheap child labor. He didn't break any laws, and neither did the game's creators.

    If people want to say that he is promoting violence or whatever, then it's easy for Bryant to say, "Take it up with the company that makes the game."

No. 2: Branching Out

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    MILWAUKEE - NOVEMBER 16: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots a free-throw against the Milwaukee Bucks at the Bradley Center on November 16, 2010 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Lakers defeated the Bucks 118-107. NOTE TO USER: User expressly ackn
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    As shocking as it might seem, there are probably millions of people out there who don't know much about Kobe Bryant, aside from the fact that he plays basketball and got into some hot water in Eagle, Colorado back in 2003.

    That's probably hard to believe since you are reading a sports website and know everything from the name of Kobe's high school to the lyrics of his awesome, groundbreaking rap career.

    He can win all the MVPs and all the NBA Finals rings he wants, but that probably won't make him any more "mainstream" than he already is.

    Sure, Kobe transcends basketball, especially in Los Angeles, where he is probably as well known as Will Ferrell or Jennifer Aniston.

    But for all the people who don't watch much sports or don't follow the NBA, seeing Kobe in the ad makes him relevant or at least intriguing to a new faction of the population.

    Maybe that doesn't mean people will buy his basketball products or become rabid Laker fans overnight. But it definitely raises his "Q rating," which someone in his camp cares about.

No. 1: LeBron

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    MIAMI - NOVEMBER 17:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat reacts after making a shot during a game against the Phoenix Suns at American Airlines Arena on November 17, 2010 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by down
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    LeBron James certainly stole some of Kobe's thunder when he entered the NBA in 2003. He was another prodigy who skipped college and made a big splash early on.

    He's even stolen two MVPs from Kobe the past two seasons.

    Now there is an undercurrent of East Coast-West Coast rivalry between the two—or at least the NBA would like to portray it that way.

    But the "Summer of LeBron" definitely stole attention away from Kobe's second straight NBA championship.

    While THE story of the 2010-2011 season really should be if the Lakers and Kobe can complete a second three-peat in the span of a dozen years, it's all about how LeBron, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Miami Heat are faring.

    Or, in terms of singular personalities, the last three months have been all about "LeBron playing the race card" and LeBron's "What should I do?" Nike commercial.

    It probably doesn't matter to either player, but with this Black Ops "controversy," the spotlight has returned to Kobe. At least for now.