Bitten By The Black Mamba
One writer’s excruciatingly painful path toward Kobe Bryant fanhood.
by Rudy Raya
In all of sports history, there has never really been a player quite like Kobe Bryant. His talent and the accomplishments are truly impressive, but for a player who has had so much success, has there ever been a bigger villain?
From the very beginning, Kobe had a distinct arrogance to him. Even with sparing minutes in his rookie season, Kobe carried himself as if he already had his five championship rings on layaway. It’s the smug smirk that he constantly has on display, his desperate antics that beg for a foul after every drive, and how he carelessly rips teams a part night in and night out. Cold-hearted and deadly, Kobe could find a way to embarrass your team, ruin your day, and in the end, make you glad you got to see it.
For the man who seems to have everything, for whatever it’s worth, my admiration was one of the last things to come.
Teeming with frustration, I remember standing in a friend’s driveway heaving angry jump shots at an innocent backboard just minutes after the Kings had lost Game 7 of the 2002 NBA Western Conference Finals. Choked up and fighting back tears, we stood around dumbfounded by what had just happened. I was filled with anger and sadness and every other emotion imaginable. Being all of 12 years old, and still unphased by women and all the problems that they bring, Kobe Bryant was the first person to really and truly break my heart. As a child, and even sometimes as an adult, it is easy to blur the line between sports and reality, but as much as I loved the Kings, I hated the Lakers equally, and, with every ounce of me. I remember attending a Kings/Lakers game and shouting “SHAQ LICKS SAC!” from my second-story seat. Even as a child I was a sucker for witty puns.
Growing up in Sacramento, my younger years were spent idolizing the Sacramento Kings. Though it sounds like a far cry from our current status, it was a wonderful time for basketball in the Capitol City. As a subject of this King-dom, with Chris Webber at the throne and the rest of the knights of the round ball, we looked like a team ready to rule over the NBA.
But as much noise as the Kings and their fans could make, it paled in comparison to anything that Kobe and the Lakers were doing. While the Kings were trying to build a team, the Lakers were busy building a dynasty. It also didn’t help that the Kings only added to the Lakers’ legacy by subsequently ending their season each time they faced L.A. in the Playoffs.
I don’t wish to outline Kobe’s entire career, but rather, began where everything started to change for him. The sexual assault allegations in 2002 came as a complete shock to anybody who had ever even heard the name “Kobe Bryant.”
“Is it even possible for Kobe to do that?”
“Does Kobe even need to do that?”
It just didn’t add up. Though he declared his innocence as far as the charges, a remorseful Kobe sat there and admitted to sleeping with the girl in front of his wife, cameras, reporters and millions on the other side of the television. His once cool, calm and collected perception was finally broken. He looked defeated. No early playoff exit or award snub could compare to the situation he was in. This went beyond basketball and his team; it was real life.