The Raptors’ Sunday afternoon loss to the Lakers courtesy of a Kobe Bryant buzzer beater isn’t the sort of thing that you’d expect to result in a love letter from the local newspaper to the Black Mamba, but we’re rarely graced with such a negative character study as the one provided by The Star’s Cathal Kelly. Of Kobe’s demeanor, treatment of opponents, teammates, fans and media, Kelly writes, “he has become a meta-presence in basketball…he exists above the game, and chooses only small, interesting moments when he wants to participate.” Which is a rather pithy way of saying he’s kind of a horrible human being.
Bryant is only barely a teammate. It would be more correct to call him a freelance contractor who happens to wear the same uniform as everyone else.
As mesmerizing as he is to watch on the ball, he’s also hypnotic without it. Whether up by 15 or down by four, his expression is exactly the same — a bored-looking smirk. The body language repeats the same thing over and over again: “Call me when this gets interesting.”
He oozes contempt — always for his opponents and often for his teammates. The Raptors start out each game with a ritualized series of lingering, full-body hugs. The Lakers barely look at each other before they wander individually onto the court.
That’s down to Bryant, who didn’t even bother to join his team on the court until after the anthems were played. That earned him a lusty cheer from his wannabe pals in the Toronto crowd. Bryant didn’t even look up.
It’s more than unfriendliness. It’s verging on incivility.
Here’s Bryant talking about the fortunate recipient of that late pass, Mr. World Peace.
“It gives him a good boost. It shows him that in those situations I have confidence in him. It’s a good momentum play for him.”
If that reads as condescending, let me assure you that it sounded far moreso.