Some time ago, someone opened my eyes. You hate because you love he told me. Honestly, for a while that never made sense. It still doesn’t totally register. But I’m trying to figure out why I’m drawn to people who might have me rolling my eyes if I was around them all the time. It’s entertainment, but it’s more than that.
On Friday, stories leaked in the Los Angeles media about Kobe Bryant sizing himself up against Michael Jordan. During a sit-down with Phil Jackson, the L.A. Times’ Mike Bresnahan says Jackson shared an interesting story with him about a meeting he set up between two of the greatest players he’s ever coached:
“I wanted Michael to get Kobe to understand that he didn’t have to stray outside the offense,” Jackson said of the meeting he arranged in 2000. “I prepped Michael a little bit that this kid was just learning the offense. They sat down and talked and the first thing Kobe said to Mike was, ‘I can take you one-on-one.’
I smirked when I read that. I love it. And you know what the strangest part about it was? The backlash was eerily silent. Shots? Kobe barely took any. That’s amazing. Think about it: three or four years ago, dude would’ve gotten ripped apart. The media, and more intensely, the fans would’ve metaphorically tied him up, belted him with basketballs until he was bleeding leather and dripping Spalding. But now in 2011, it gets passed over. Either that, or he got praised.
Actually, that’s a whole other topic (why does every athlete have to go through the same phase – from God to the fallen to God again?). What couldn’t be lost in this was the gall of Bryant. Who walks up to the greatest of all-time in their chosen profession, literally the man who could do absolutely no wrong, the guy they studied their entire life, watched him embarrass any competition from the couch in their living room, one of the most famous people in the world, their blueprint, idol and goal all rolled into one, walk up to him as a kid barely old enough to do adult things, as someone who hasn’t really accomplished anything outside of being famous and exciting, and tell that man: “I’m better than you. Right now.” That’s intimidating. That scares people.