Kobe Bryant Defends LeBron James

Kobe Bryant knows a thing or two about being vilified.  No one’s image took a hit quite like his after his legal issues in Colorado in 2003.  Before that, he was a three-time champion pitching everything under the sun.  But even if that HADN’T happened, his success along with his, um, “confidence” would still rub plenty of people the wrong way.  

Now, it’s LeBron James is dealing with some of the same type of vitriol.  Of course, LeBron is squeaky clean when it comes to legal issues, but people love to get on his case about anything they can on the floor… especially his lack of team success on it. The hate is everywhere.  Kobe sees it, and he doesn’t particularly care for it.

“I think people need to lay off that kid, that’s what I think,” Bryant said of James. “I’ve gotten to know him pretty well, playing with the Olympic team, and I think they just need to back off him and just let him play and let him live his life and let him make his decisions and let him mature as a player.”

That’s a great sentiment.  Let the kid live his life without all the pressure and hate. He’s still 27 years-old and he does have a lot of growing to do.  

The only issue with that, though, is LeBron’s incessant desire for the spotlight.  The events of last summer, besides being off-putting due to the absolutely horrid execution of events, were a “hey look at me, look at what I’m doing” series of moves.  Public comments about how many championships he’ll win and signing on the dotted line for every endorsement that comes his way put him squarely in the public’s cross-hairs. 

And don’t take this as me telling him not to do the endorsements.  He’s free to do put his face or signature on whatever he wants.  Hell, he can endorse more things than Krusty the Clown if he wants.  But he’s got to accept what comes along with that.  You simply can’t have it both ways. You can’t push Nike, State Farm, Coke, McDonald’s and whatever else he’s pushing and then sit back and ask for utter privacy.  You have chosen to put your face out there for the world to see. And, rightly or wrongly, that will conjure up hate. 

I get it from Kobe’s perspective, though.  It’s not like he chose to have this level of basketball ability.  The natural gift of becoming a basketball God is bestowed upon a precious few.  The seed was nurtured with an insane level of hard work and a mentality that few can even comprehend. Kobe, LeBron and other megastars had this life thrust upon them.  And just like you and me, they’re going to work at what they do and then take whatever other perks are available.  What if a pen company walked into your cubicle and said “man, you are just the best at what you do, here’s $10 million to endorse our new roller-ball line”, would you turn it down?  Of course not.  

But life is what it is.  Becoming a basketball God puts you in front of millions of people every night in stadiums and on TV.  And it’s a deal that comes with a dark side:  worldwide fame.  As great as that can be, it’s often crippling to someone who simply wants a social life.  But it’s not impossible to deal with.  Just look at Dirk Nowitzki, who has made plenty of money and has chosen not to endorse anything.  He could cash in if he wants, but he won’t.  He’s passing on the side show that comes along with it.  It’s taken him forever to win his first title.  And while there was some criticism, there was never the cacophony that surrounds LeBron.  Not even close. 

So yes, Kobe, I get it.  Maybe some people do need to back off LeBron.  But you can’t have it both ways.  You can’t beg for the spotlight and try to hide from it at the same time.  That’s the choice LeBron is making, and he’s going to have to deal with the consequences.