Kobe Bryant disliked Smush Parker, believing he lacked both the talent and work ethic to compete in the NBA. Parker disliked Bryant, feeling he hardly set up a positive atmosphere that would nurture such growth.
On and on it went. Parker would call playing with Bryant from 2005 to 2007 “overrated.” Bryant would belittle Parker, taking the team’s overwhelming majority of shots as if he had no choice. It continued this week with similar talking points. Even if Bryant refused to say much about Parker taking offense after Friday’s practice, it’s clear the Lakers star was biting his tongue. Instead, Bryant took to Facebook on Saturday indirectly addressing Parker by outlining his tough love.
“Leadership is responsibility. There comes a point when one must make a decision. Are YOU willing to do what it takes to push the right buttons to elevate those around you? If the answer is YES, are you willing to push the right buttons even if it means being perceived as the villain? Here’s where the true responsibility of being a leader lies. Sometimes you must prioritize the success of the team ahead of how your own image is perceived. The ability to elevate those around you is more than simply sharing the ball or making teammates feel a certain level of comfort. It’s pushing them to find their inner beast, even if they end up resenting you for it at the time.”
It was clear that Parker still resents Bryant when he appeared in a 35-minute interview with Hard 2 Guard Radio. He lamented how Bryant refused to talk with him and mingle with teammates outside of the court.
“You can’t knock the man’s legacy, you can’t knock what he’s done in basketball,” Parker told Hard 2 Guard Radio, as transcribed by Larry Brown Sports. “His work ethic is tremendous. There’s not an ounce of hate in my blood whatsoever. The guy can play basketball -- you’ve seen that throughout his career.
“What I don’t like about him is the man that he is. His personality. How he treats people. I don’t like that side of Kobe Bryant.”
In his Facebook post, Bryant argued his tough love is necessary. In Parker’s case, he was known to have a surly attitude and his professionalism came into question, including the time he missed a team plane because he overslept. Former Lakers coach Phil Jackson and Parker never saw eye to eye, either.
“I’d rather be perceived as a winner than a good teammate,” Bryant wrote on his post. “I wish they both went hand in hand all the time but that’s just not reality. I have nothing in common with lazy people who blame others for their lack of success. Great things come from hard work and perseverance. No excuses. This is my way. It might not be right for YOU but all I can do is share my thoughts. It’s on YOU to figure out which leadership style suits you best.”
That leadership style clearly didn’t suit Parker. But Bryant doesn’t seem to care. He’d rather play with more talented players anyway.
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