Kobe Bryant knows a little something about criticism. From 2004 until about 2008, he was one of the most hated athletes in any sport. Amazing right? The guy is now universally loved. Yeah, he still has his haters. But no one is going out of their way to tear him down. Success took some shots at him, and he survived. Now LeBron James is going to need to do the same thing.
Because of that, Bryant is standing up for James. There are varying reports on how close James and Bryant are – some say they are friendly, others that Bryant respects Dwyane Wade much more – but as perhaps the two best players in the world, there is respect. And Bryant recently took an opportunity to let everyone know how he feels.
Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel writes:
When it comes to the criticism LeBron James endured in the wake of the Miami Heat’s NBA Finals failure against the Dallas Mavericks, Kobe Bryant has two words:
Amid reflecting on his own team’s postseason demise against Dallas, the Los Angeles Lakers guard had pointed words during an ESPN interview for those who have pointed a critical finger at the Heat forward.
“I think people need to lay off that kid, that’s what I think,” Bryant said of James. “I’ve gotten to know him pretty well, playing with the Olympic team, and I think they just need to back off him and just let him play and let him live his life and let him make his decisions and let him mature as a player.”
Bryant said he could relate to what James has had to endure in the six weeks since the Heat came up two victories shy of an NBA title in the Heat’s first season with the roster remix of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
“It’s tough to be under the microscope like that all the time,” Bryant said. “So, I would like everybody to just back off of him and just let him play.”
Bryant has a point. This whole “Hate LeBron” campaign has gone overboard. It’s at a point now where people are almost forgetting why they hate him. They just do, and everything he does will be spun in a way to meet those expectations.
People hated the Decision. But now, it’s come to represent everything James is about. When we think of him, we don’t think of all the records, the back-to-back MVP years, the classic playoff performances. We think of one night from last summer.
I’m willing to guess that a few years from now, LeBron will have at least one ring, and most of the hate will be gone. Then, we’ll be spewing stories about how LeBron “changed” when in reality, it’s all about winning. Win a ring, learn to win, and the hate will slowly disappear.
For now though, even Bryant’s calls for the public to relax will probably go unheard.
What do you think? Do we all need to cut LeBron some slack?
Follow Sean on Twitter at @SEANesweeney.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.