Kobe Bryant is not a perfect player. He makes bad decisions. Always has, both on the court and off. Those of us who have seen him play since high school know that fact. He is impetuous, arrogant, dismissive, head-strong, and many less than favorable personality traits. He has been adulterer. On the court, he sometimes shoots too much, or not enough, makes bad shot choices, doesn't make the necessary pass, doesn't get his team involved, plays sloppy defense, plays good defense and still gets burned, doesn't block out, complains too much, misses a free throw, misses the shot at the end of quarters, half's, games way more than he makes, dribbles of his foot, all kinds of things. All of these failings have been at times critical and at times not so much. He fails more than he succeeds. He is a professional basketball player.
He is universally a polarizing player, by and large, disliked, under-mined and de-valued by a majority of national media (a broad viewpoint, but over the years proven true) and is treated very much the same by many Laker fans, where he is equally polarizing. There is no other player of his stature, in my memory, who causes the dichotomy that he does in any sport.
Is it his personality? I don't think he'd be much fun to go have a beer with, but how is he much different than most of the inflated egos in pro sports? I like his straight-forward comments. He isn't the typical disingenuous boot licking interview. He say's what he thinks, doesn't care how it sounds, kinda like you and I do at the gym or work or with our peeps. He doesn't play the "sound bite game".He doesn't really care who like's him or doesn't. I find that to be honest and real.
Is it Colorado? Pro players live in a world unlike anything else. Every day can be like a frat party if they want! Many, it fact, probably a majority of them have a morality that is horrible. Kobe is no different. He got caught and hooked up with someone who wouldn't quietly slip away. Probably not the only time he has had an indiscretion. How, apart from the rape charge (with which he was exonerated) is he different or so hated than my own beloved Magic Johnson? Magic, by his own admission had affairs with hundreds of women, while in a committed relationship. Jordan's wife said in divorce proceedings that he had a dozen affairs. Wilt, while an admitted bachelor, was a dog in heat (and needed a better calculator that doesn't add a zero or two). None of those guys have ever taken the heat Kobe did (does).
or the Shaq thing or trade me thing? This has lessened because it is obvious in hindsight who the bigger fool was. Nevertheless, while Kobe could have played a more contrite roll, he didn't and Shaq left. Again so many others have been much more of a locker room albatross than Kobe, but he still takes hits for it.
Is it his play? Nearly every article here or more so nationally, has blame assigned when the Laker's fail or even when they succeed. Others get there share but Kobe gets a lion's share. As mentioned, he fails often. If you have ever played sports, that is the cold hard reality. You fail more than you succeed. By a lot. Only one team should ever be happy after the season. That is a lot of failure. Kobe gets the blame for so much of it. Too much of it.
If you took away his effort, production, and success rate, where would the Lakers be? Take it away this year, and they are not just 1 game under.500, but probably 6-7. Kobe is literally the ONLY consistent positive on the team. More negative comments on the Jan 1st game were against him than anyone. He made some bad plays, but compared to Gasol or Howard? They get blown out without Kobe. .He is required to provide the bulk of the scoring load, keep his non-productive teammates involved, play lock down defense, pass effectively, out rebound his opponent, make every big play at every critical moment.
Imagine his mindset before every game. " I'm going hard from the beginning. Gotta set the pace. Hope my guys are ready. Hope Gasol has his heart in the game, but if he isn't into it, can't stop for him. D12? Hope he plays smart. I know he got my back. I think. Lets see, going to count on Metta, he is rolling. Who else? I know what Gatsby can do. Everyone else. I guess we'll see." Midway through the game. " What is up with these guys? We just had 3 days off and they are tired? I'm trying to conserve some energy for 4th quarter double-teams, but these guys are playing in slow motion. Should I take over now since nobody else can score or should I pass the ball more? Pass to who?" End of game. " gotta get hard and tough now, gotta make the plays, cannot lose here. Who can I count on? Gasol? he has checked out. D12? Man, no way can he make the end of game play. Never has. Steve, yeah lets see, he has gotta make the shot. will he even take it? Forget that. None of these guys got it, I gotta make the plays." Oh well. Every game he never knows what he will get from his teammates. Every game they know exactly what they will get from Kobe.
Basketball is a simple game. Good plays and bad, decisions made in fractions of seconds, hundreds of times a game. Good plays are making a shot, a good pass, getting position for a rebound, fundamental defense, free throw etc. Basketball basics. Bad basketball plays at a fundamental level are missed shots (a good shot in the flow of the offense that misses is still a bad play. Ask any coach, that shot must be hit. The play was designed for it to), poor position for rebounds, turnovers, unnecessary fouls, lack of defensive awareness/position, etc.
Kobe makes good plays on offense and defense about 65-70% of the time. Always has.He also takes the last shot a majority of the time at end of clock scenarios, which is incredibly tough to do. The other Lakers cannot say the same. Nash has been nice, especially over the 3-4th string pg's we had over most of the season. But he hasn't been great. His lack of offensive aggressiveness and defensive liability is clear. Is he making good plays all the time? Maybe at the same clip as Kobe. Maybe not.
Gasol? Not even close. He is not good. He is average at best for his position. Howard? He is probably barely even at good/bad play almost every game. MWP? Much better than the last couple years, but still, not great. The rest? Terrible.
Kobe is not to blame for this years failure. He is the only bright spot. Without his 30-35% failure over the last 14-15 years the Lakers don't win 5 out of 7 Finals.
His career long fortitude, strength of will, amazing athleticism, clutch play, and competitiveness are among the greatest of all time. No one has ever played tougher. Never seen anyone play through injuries at such a high level as Kobe. He has played in the most athletic and difficult to succeed era in basketball history. He has had the most legitimate competition of any other great player over the course of his career, and bested them all. From Iverson,Carter,McGrady,Francis to Wade, James, Anthony, Westbrook. He is a winner and we will not see his like again (course I thought that when Magic left!). Most players at the twilight of their long career, spent with the same team, are given almost a hallowed status. Kobe is given a hollowed status more often than not. Maybe after he is done, and Laker fans are dealing with whatever is on the team at that time, we will recognize what we no longer have.