Let me start off by saying that Kobe Bryant is awesome. He’s quite possibly the best player in the league, and he proved it Tuesday by leading the Lakers from 20 points down to beat MJ’s Wizards with a triple-double that included 15 assists. Make no mistake about it — Kobe deserves to be an All-Star.
But he deserves the boos, too.
In Sunday’s All-Star Game, Kobe got booed by the Philadelphia crowd every time he touched the ball and especially when he went up to receive his MVP trophy after the game. Since then, a horde of NBA columnists has come to Kobe’s defense, unable to understand why a guy who puts up 31 points against the best players in the world should be booed at all, let alone in his hometown.
That’s exactly it, though. It’s because Kobe scored 31 points they were booing him. It wasn’t just because Kobe blew up the Sixers in last year’s finals or because his loyalty has turned to the West Coast.
It’s because to score 31 points, you need to take a lot of shots. In fact, he needed to take 25 shots — two shy of the All-Star Game record — and Kobe did so in just 30 minutes. There’s nothing wrong with that if you’re playing in Game Seven of the NBA Finals, but this was the All-Star Game.
That’s right, Kobe, the ALL-Star Game, not the ONE-Star Game. In college, we learn that ALL is not the same as ONE and in fact, is quite the opposite. In college, we learn that ALL is better than ONE. In college, we learn to have humility.
But you didn’t go to college, did you, Kobe?
Well then here’s my crash course in being humble:
1. In the All-Star Game, don’t shoot the ball every time you touch it, because there are guys named Duncan and Garnett and Webber and Francis and even Szczerbiak on your team who want and deserve a piece of the pie, too.
2. Don’t think that scoring 31 points means anything, because I could do that, too, against the kind of defense that is played in the All-Star Game.
3. Don’t ever call yourself the next Michael Jordan. You should’ve learned that one in grade school.
You don’t usually blame a guy for trying hard, but Kobe was trying too hard. He was trying too hard to win a meaningless game, and worse, he was trying too hard to be MVP. That’s why Philly booed you, Kobe. Because everyone’s a little sick of you talking about and trying to prove how good you are. We know you’re good. We know you’re real good.
And now we know you’re full of yourself, too.
Some other All-Star Weekend notes:
I was lucky enough to be in Philly over the weekend, eat cheese steaks, and even attend the $30-a-seat Rookie Challenge, which, by the way, was the best event of the weekend. It featured a little of everything that All-Star Weekend is supposed to showcase in the prime-time, $800-a-seat events. These include:
Jaw-dropping dunks. Jason Richardson, Darius Miles and Desmond Mason brought down the house (and the rim) with some crazy slams in the Rookie Challenge, few of which appeared in the actual dunk contest. “NBA.com Slam Dunk” was even weaker than I expected, and, to my complete horror, they really brought out the “Wheel of Famous Dunks.” Thanks to the wheel, Steve Francis — the best dunker in the contest — didn’t make it to the final round because his hands were too small to replicate the dunk his spin landed on. Richardson saved the day with his final dunk, and Tracy McGrady helped out with his off-the-backboard flush in Sunday’s main event, but the NBA better start offering more prize money — I’m talking $1,000,000 — or nice dunks are only going to get fewer and further between.
A deserving MVP and classy champion: Richardson was money on All-Star Saturday. He scored 26 points — on 18 shots, Kobe — to claim the Rookie Challenge MVP in the afternoon and then went on to become slam dunk champion in the evening by pulling off the aforementioned final dunk that saved the day. After being named MVP, Richardson explained his motivation — to “get the fans excited for tonight.” Spoken like a true star at All-Star Weekend.
A certain big-headed player who doesn’t know how to have fun: Kobe is not a rookie or a sophomore, Kobe didn’t want to play with Justin Timberlake, Kobe can’t shoot the three like the Europeans, and Kobe is too stuck-up to be in the dunk contest. All of this meant that Kobe and his attitude weren’t around on All-Star Saturday.