In March, Los Angeles Lakers future Hall of Fame guard Kobe Bryant came under fire for his comments regarding Trayvon Martin. Asked by The New Yorker’s Ben McGrath if he could see himself re-enacting the Miami Heat’s silent protest in support of the slain teen, Bryant’s answer ignited a firestorm of debate.
“I won’t react to something just because I’m supposed to, because I’m an African-American. That argument doesn’t make any sense to me. So we want to advance as a society and as a culture, but, say, if something happens to an African-American, we immediately come to his defense? Yet you want to talk about how far we’ve progressed as a society? Well, if we’ve progressed as a society, then you don’t jump to somebody’s defense just because they’re African-American. You sit and you listen to the facts just like you would in any other situation, right? So I won’t assert myself.”
Much of everything Kobe says and does comes under fire, as was the case here. Kobe’s “blackness” was questioned as was his sensitivity to the issue at hand. What he was said wasn’t exactly wrong, but the comments came off as crass. All the facts had been examined. Race was undoubtedly involved in Trayvon’s case, but so was the issue of right and wrong. And when it boils down to the meat of the issue, Martin was a young man killed attempting to defend himself from a perceived threat who thought Trayvon was the threat.
For many of his long-time detractors, it was another feather in the proverbial cap of Bean’s public gaffes.
Yesterday, the fourth leading scorer in NBA history took part in a rally organized by Trayvon’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, on the one year year anniversary of George Zimmerman’s acquittal. Kobe’s appearance was a surprise to the more than 200 people at the Crenshaw event.
His statement addressing true adversity reflected a Kobe – who has famously crafted the image of himself of being a maniacal competitor treating winning and losing in the vein of life or death – who understood separating basketball from real life.
“When you look at those challenges in a vacuum, they feel like they’re the most important, the most significant things in the world. When you look at them in isolation,” Bryant said. “However, when you step outside of that. What Sybrina, Tracy had to go through as a family and what they’ve come out of…that’s true adversity.”
How or why Kobe experienced a change of heart in the months following his controversial comments is little more than water under the bridge at this point. We’re all humans and any of us blessed to live long enough have recognized the error in our words or understood how personal opinions could be easily taken out of context. More impactful than any hot take debate was the solace of Kobe being in attendance, genuinely appearing to appreciate playing a role in the ceremony and his words perhaps resonating far beyond the fact he’s one of the greatest ball players ever.
The most important takeaway in all this? Not Kobe, which I’m sure he’d agree with, too. It’s Trayvon Martin’s name continuing to be catalyst for championing.
Cred: Karen Civil