by Lang Whitaker

It’s that time again, when we get a little gift from the Official Illustrator of The Links, Joel Kimmel.

“Kobe Bryant, you love him or you hate him, or maybe you sort of like him and hate him at the same time (like me),” writes Joel. “There are those games where he doesn’t shoot in the first half to prove a point that he can pass, or the games where he’ll score and get accused of not passing. There are the Michael Jordan comparisons and instances in games where it almost seems like he’s thinking, ‘What would MJ do?’ He has a flair for the dramatic, and sometimes it almost appears forced. But despite all of these things, he is a lethal scorer and the League’s best player.

“The snakes on the left of the painting represent the Kobe Bryant everyone appreciates. The lethal scorer, the competitor and the winner. The nickname he gave himself, Black Mamba, is appropriate and works in his favor. On the other side, the venomous black mambas turn on Kobe, threatening to bite. These snakes represent the negativity towards Kobe, much of which is brought on by his own behavior. He relates himself to a black mamba and it turns on him.

“In the middle there is a black and red snake, representing the Michael Jordan comparisons that have followed him his whole career. He’s been snakebitten with the curse of being the next MJ, and even if he succeeds in that, people will look upon him negatively.

“The other painting, with two small Kobes, shows the same idea. The Kobe on the left is aided by the mamba persona that drives him to the basket with deadly force. On the right, his mambas pull him down, while a predator bird grabs a snake in its mouth.

“I’ve made prints of this piece available in my shop. I think that’s it. Kobe’s a complicated dude.”