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There’s a reason why Kobe Bryant remains perhaps one of the most polarizing sports figures in history within the African-American community.
Sure, we all marvel at his talents and ability, just don’t go hoping to fill a stadium with enough of us who actually admit to liking or even fully admiring the L.A. Lakers superstar. Now Kobe fans, before you go ballistic wondering what standards could possibly be used for uttering such blasphemy, just know that The Black Mamba brought all this venom on himself.
Show me any athlete worth his salt, not to mention anywhere near Bryant’s all-time great level, and I’ll show you one with an attitude and all the arrogance to match. But with Bryant, it’s always about so much more, primarily because he seems to be forever focused on showing us just how little he cares about connecting with many of the very people who have made him such a valued commodity.
Bryant recently sat down with The New Yorker for a profile piece and by the time he had risen from his seat he had managed to take more shots at the African-American community than even the nearly 25,000 he’s hoisted over the course of his shot-happy 18-year career.
For reasons only known to himself, Bryant saw fit to mercilessly ridicule the Miami Heat for their recent hoodie-wearing show of respect for slain teen Trayvon Martin, telling the magazine “I won’t react to something just because I’m supposed to, because I’m an African-American. That argument doesn’t make any sense to me. So we want to advance as a society and a culture, but, say, if something happens to an African-American, we immediately come to his defense? Yet you want to talk about how far we’ve progressed as a society? Well, then don’t jump to somebody’s defense just because they’re African-American.”
For the life of me, I don’t see how Bryant can’t see that a 17-year-old, unarmed boy should be able to walk safely down his street, whether he’s rocking a hoodie or not.
But then, remember this is the same man who to this day, in that very New Yorker interview actually, continues to dog Shaquille O’Neal as lazy and somewhat unmotivated even though it was O’Neal who was as big a factor as he was in making certain the pair netted the last three-peat in league history. Remember, this is also the same guy who in 2003, when he himself faced charges of raping a young Caucasian hotel worker, took to donning a Muhammad Ali t-shirt and saluting fans with a clenched salute, all in a clear and blatant attempt to sway the black community to support him.
Upon his New Yorker comments and after all his critics raised the ante with their criticisms of him, Bryant again took to Twitter, paraphrasing Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream speech and adding “we can’t further the movement if we don’t further the movement ourselves. Embrace our culture’s history and far we’ve come while continuing to take it further.”
Yo, Kobe, Trayvon Martin had a dream too, something along the lines his family says included one day being a pilot. No matter what you believe actually transpired that night, he was confronted by overzealous neighborhood watchmen George Zimmerman and the bottom-line is that it all went up in smoke — just steps away from the sanctuary of his father’s gated-community home, no less.
In the face of such tragedy, it doesn’t take Jim Brown to realize Bryant owes one of his biggest fan bases at least a greater degree of sensitivity. He has to know that African-Americans have a long tenuous relationship with the criminal justice system over unfair treatment. And supporters babbling about him growing up in Italy, then an affluent Philadelphia suburb as somehow justification for his ignorance or, better yet, indifference toward many of those who have so supported and uplifted him simply doesn’t measure up.
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