Kobe Bryant should go down in history as the second-greatest NBA player of all time. Although I don’t think he’ll finish his career as accomplished as the best of the best like Michael Jordan or Bill Russell, Kobe has singlehandedly kept the Lakers relevant throughout the years, even when the rest of his team has been lackluster. A player this talented and important to the game should be respected and admired, but why is it that so many people hate on Kobe Bryant?
Admittedly, Kobe is no longer the primary target of the basketball world’s scrutiny. LeBron James has easily taken that title since “The Decision.” Still, Kobe Bryant was the third-most hated NBA player according to Forbes’ list, falling behind only Kris Humphries and LeBron. So why is it, after all his success and becoming easily identifiable as the best player we’ve seen since MJ, that a majority of people still don’t like Kobe Bryant?
There are three main reasons for this. The first reason is something I like to call “The MJ Effect.” Kobe has won five championships, including a threepeat. He’s won an MVP award, two NBA Finals MVP awards and he continues to dazzle us with his ability to take over games in the fourth quarter and hit gamewinners. Like Michael Jordan before him, some people resent Kobe because he continues to be the best and we get sick of the monotony, no matter how great he continues to play. Basically, we’ve gotten sick of Kobe and the Lakers winning championships and we’re ready for something new. There are always haters when it comes to success, as we began to see with Michael Jordan as he neared the end of his career with the Bulls. But whereas the majority of people recognized that they were witnessing the greatest of all time make history with Michael Jordan’s accomplishments, most knowledgable basketball fans know that Kobe will never measure up to MJ, so why be interested in watching him win more championships? It’s an easy point to back up, all people have to do is remind Kobe fanatics that Shaq was the Finals MVP the first three times he won a title with the Lakers, basically saying that it wouldn’t have been possible without Shaq (Phil Jackson too). Kobe isn’t even the best player in the league anymore (sorry but LeBron is better, even if he can’t hit a gamewinner) and we’ve seen him win before. So unless you’re a Lakers fan, you’re ready for someone new to be dominant.
The second reason people generally dislike Kobe Bryant goes back to the rape allegations back in 2003, when a young hotel employee, Katelyn Faber, filed a sexual assault complaint. Whether or not he actually raped the 19-year-old Faber was never proven because the case never went to court, but he did admit to having an adulterous sexual encounter with her. The worst part of all of this however, was his ambiguous and questionable apology to Faber after the charges were dropped, which left a lot of room for doubt as to whether or not the sexual encounter was consensual. So despite the charges being dropped, it’s not easy to forget a serious and scandalous accusation like that.
But probably the biggest reason why people dislike Kobe Bryant is his general demeanor and confidence that borderlines (and often crosses into) cockiness. Kobe is a winner. Kobe is a fierce competitor. But nowhere in those descriptions does it say Kobe has to be a nice guy. And that works for him, because he can be a downright dick sometimes. We see plenty of Kobe Bryant; whether it’s in postgame interviews or funny commercials with Aziz Ansari, the NBA’s audience gets plenty of exposure to him. But no matter how entertaining some of those commercials may be and no matter how many gamewinners he continues to hit, most people just don’t have a good impression of Kobe Bryant. It might be that ugly, jaw-clenched face he has when he’s at his competitive high. Maybe it’s his tendency to be a sore loser in how he handles defeat in press conferences and interviews with such a condescending and short attitude. It may even be something as small as the anti-gay slur incident that he was fined $100K for. But whatever the case, that fire and extremely competitive nature Kobe Bryant carries around with him is the same quality that prevents his commercials from being too endearing and makes him such an unlikable person in society’s eyes, in victory and defeat.
All Lakers fans adore Kobe Bryant, and rightfully so after all he’s given the franchise. Some Lakers fans foolishly look at him as the greatest of all time. The smartest ones acknowledge that he isn’t the nicest guy around and that he’s not MJ, but also recognize that he’s a one-of-a-kind competitor and winner with a legacy of his own. So what is that legacy? When his time is done, he will go down as the greatest Laker of all time. Perhaps not the most loved (no one will take that away from Magic Johnson), but Kobe’s ability to make big plays at the most critical moment of a game and win championships will secure his place in history as the second greatest basketball player we’ve ever seen, regardless of what we think of him as a person.
As a Suns fan, I can’t stand Kobe Bryant. But as a basketball fan, player and student, I can’t deny the respect I have for his talent, competitive fire and ability to win. I absolutely hate watching Kobe with his game face on when he’s singlehandedly taking over a game or dominating my Suns. Yes, Michael Jordan had a similar game face when it came down to crunch time, but his was purely inspiring unless you were a diehard fan of the other team. Kobe’s game face, like his entire persona, is one that largely inspires disgust and dislike from the majority of people who aren’t Lakers fans. So go ahead and hate on Kobe’s success. Mock his overly competitive attitude and make fun of him for his postgame interviews. But whether or not you like him and his game face doesn’t matter, because at the end of his career, people had damn well better respect Kobe Bryant and the ugly face he made on the way to becoming the second-greatest NBA player we’ve ever seen.