There is no joy in Kobeville


I know why Kobe is angry and unhappy with me, but what’s he got against everyone else?

He has championship rings, millions and now more millions to come, doesn’t have to work another day in his life and he always looks upset.

What will he be like when he must mingle with the common folk, no more basketball and another 40 or 50 years to live?

He’s adored by many as a basketball player, and yet it’s difficult to find anyone in the Los Angeles-area media who has a decent working relationship with the guy.

Most hold him in contempt, as he does them.

Yet it’s almost universal here, most everyone in the media slobbering over him with microphone in hand or computer turned on. The media can be as phony as he can be at times.

He is not approachable, his “inner circle of trust,” as he calls it, shrinking which each passing year.

He answers questions with a monotone voice, the words snapped off with disgust, while glaring at anyone who asks something that might be construed as criticism.

His intensity suggests he’s on some kind of crusade to save mankind. He must think what he’s doing in life is really important, and maybe he has no choice, so many others treating what he does in the same way.

Is there a better example of lost perspective in sports, fans assuming that great talent also makes for a great human being?

He plays a game for a living, but there is no joy in his play, no indication he’s having a good time, no exuberance.

Would you want your son growing up to play the game of basketball like Kobe? Of course you would.

Would you want your son growing up to carry on like Kobe does when he plays basketball?

He plays alone at times, usually at his own choosing, the end of the game reserved for his greatness, which is sports at its best. He’s good, all right, as hard as he works, he makes everyone else work just as hard to embrace him.

He struts onto the court when the starters are introduced without a glance, handshake or anything else directed to his teammates -- as if he’s just arrived and now they can play the game -- before bumping into Josh Powell.

He has the power to inspire youngsters, just as Michael Jordan did, but sends the message that competitiveness is measured in snapping at teammates, punching a chair or getting snorting mad at the officials.

He has talent galore, and the practice ethic to make him even more special with a basketball in his hands, but how will he be remembered in this city?

Those who measure human beings by the number of rings they win will forever regard him as one of the greatest Lakers of all time.

But how many sports fans will remember him with warmth or fondness?

He has the ability to be charming, but too often it is cloaked in athletic arrogance, distrust and disdain for what he must endure as a basketball star.

He gets fouled on almost every play, Phil Jackson was saying by way of admiration for his game the other day -- just like Jordan, only Kobe makes a point to let everyone know it.

It’s probably tough to remain humble when you are the very best at something, but Plaschke does, which makes him better than Kobe, and wouldn’t you like to see the look on Kobe’s face when told that?

Kay Johnson, as well as George Kimber and Abez all e-mail wanting to know about the gum chewing. “What is with Kobe’s deranged, constant, insatiable gum chewing? It is beyond psychotic and unbearable to watch.”

He chews gum like he does everything else -- with an attitude.

There is beauty in the way he plays the game, but so much of it gets lost in the ugly grimaces. He’s known more for his cold shoulder than his warm heart.

He’s basketball’s version of Jeff Kent in so many ways, convinced that he must lock himself into battle to be successful.

Maybe winning should be the only thing that matters, the athletes playing the game only and nothing more should be expected of them. The lesson of Tiger Woods.

Kobe wasn’t always like this. His charisma was as dazzling as his dunks. But he has never been the same since the Colorado incident. That was of his own making, although it seems at times everyone else is being made to pay for any discomfort he felt.

He has become more sullen, more withdrawn, and yet when reminded his image is taking a beating he can turn on the personality. Too bad he’s not reminded more often.

Now he’s going to be a Laker for life, the good news everyone here gets to continue watching a special player, the bad news everyone here gets to watch a tortured soul at work.

He’s running out of time, the end of his career in sight now and it’s too bad he doesn’t have the wherewithal to get the same joy out of the experience as people do watching him play.