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Kobe Bryant: Hate Him or Love Him?

AFRO.com, Commentary , Rob Long Posted: Jun 10, 2009

When I was a young kid, I loved professional wrestling so much I would go out and purchase wrestling magazines. There was one magazine that would have several categories such as Best Tag-Team, Top Contenders and many more.

Along with those categories were Most Popular and Most Hated. Often, one man would sit atop of both of those categories. Can you imagine, one man being Most Popular and Most Hated? Yes, Ric Flair was both, at the same time.

Today, the NBA has its version of Ric Flair. Kobe Bryants jersey is one of the top selling in the association, yet he remains one of the most polarizing figures in league history. As much as hes adored by some, hes hated by equally as many.

Some would ask why? Is it the fact that he showed up at his high school press conference with sunglasses on top of his head to announce he was entering the NBA Draft? Was it the fact that he strutted around the court as he won the NBA Slam Dunk Contest his rookie year? Was it him costing his team elimination from the play-offs as a rookie with two air balls against the Utah Jazz? Or was it hearing him snitch on Shaq after he got caught cheating on his wife? The answer would be yes.

Kobe Bryant has left a trail of haters because of a number of incidents throughout his NBA career. No one can deny his ability. Hes one of, if not the best, players in the game today. His ability is only rivaled by his flair for the dramatic. Hes considered by most, the best finisher in the game, which earned him the nickname of Black Mamba.

However, Kobe Bryant has become the guy who seemingly no one wants to win an NBA championship.

Many say Kobe never won a title without Shaq. While this is true, after Shaq, that team was rebuilt around Kobe and this is his second trip to the NBA Finals. Kobe also has an MVP award and has not missed the All-Star Game since Shaq left town either. With a championship, one would say Kobe hasnt missed a beat.

However, the championship hasnt been won yet, and until it is, Bryant will be considered a selfish me guy who cant win the big one. Whether you agree with that or not, and I dont, thats the general perception of Kobe Bryant.

With so much animosity toward one player, are sports fans missing the evolution of greatness? Are we losing out on something special because we refuse to give credit where credit is due? Are we so busy refusing to call the man the next Michael Jordan that were missing out on the only Kobe Bryant?

With the Los Angeles Lakers matched-up in a best-of-seven series against the Orlando Magic, Kobe could likely win his first NBA title post-Shaquille ONeal. What will the anti-Kobe multitude say then?

It seems weve watched Bryant mature as a player and as a leader over the past two NBA Finals. It seems as if Kobe learned from last years embarrassing series against the Boston Celtics. It seems hes become the player that the Lakers have been waiting for him to become when they signed him to the big contract that led to Shaqs departure.

We read the book by Phil Jackson that was less than complimentary of Kobe Bryant. Now, he and Jackson are in their second Finals series together and Jackson publicly has a lot of credit for Bryant now. We were told Kobe was a bad teammate, but it seems they respond well to him in this post-season.

Maybe, Kobe Bryant is so popular because hes so hated. He seems to be the bad guy that the NBA needs. Every storyline needs a villain, and that seems to be Kobe. Hes the guy you keep tuning into hoping he loses, knowing that he probably wont. Hes the player you look for reasons to hate whether he gives them to you or not.

Theres a slogan thats used for a certain NBA star that reads, We Are All Witnesses. Maybe that slogan could be used for Kobe Bryant. Like him or not, hes come a long way.

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