A New Kobe Is Born In Beijing
Wednesday - September 03, 2008
It was a repackaging that not even Madison Avenue’s biggest image spinners could have created. An athlete, once lauded for talent and marketability, is cast down among the wicked, wretched and New York Knicks after legal troubles and poor team play.
Castigated at every turn for selfishness and arrogance, a collision with destiny pulls the former castoff from the mire of loathing and onto the shoulders of the righteous where he bathes in the golden light of redemption.
Had Kobe Bryant been filmed weeping over his mother, or had given up his dreams to raise the children of his long lost sister who had died while feeding the hungry in El Salvador, he’d be a sure fire subject for a Lifetime original movie. As it is, Bryant has discarded the condemnation of his scarlet letter and in its place has added two others that brought admiration where once was shame.
In a matter of two weeks, Bryant went from selfish NBA star to a hard-working patriot who even his teammates could not help gushing over. And it wasn’t just mouth service by compliant underlings worried about ball distribution. Kobe outplayed, outworked and out-inspired every other member of team USA while completing a trickier road to redemption than the one facing the world’s greatest basketball powerhouse.
Even Celtics fans had to be impressed seeing the game’s best player reduced to a wide-eyed spectator on the medal stand whose joyful smile reflected not the me-first attitude of the NBA, but the accomplishment of something truly meaningful.
For many, the first real evidence that we were seeing a different Kobe came during an interview with former Chris Collinsworth of NBC, who asked Kobe about his first moments with his Olympic jersey. Totally out of character from the Bryant we thought we knew, the Laker guard said, “I had goosebumps. I actually just looked at it for a while. I just held it there and I laid it across my bed and I just stared at it for a few minutes just because as a kid growing up, this is the ultimate, ultimate in basketball.”
Such comments could be easy enough to disregard as proper PC positioning if it weren’t for the effort and attitude he showed throughout the games and even in practice. If Bryant was acting, it was an Academy Award-worthy performance.
Asked about the source of his patriotism, Kobe spoke of having “... a sense of pride that you have that you say our country is the best.”
Of course, the good folks at Fox & Friends used Collinsworth’s question about whether it was cool to be patriotic in this day and age to blast the interviewer and to reference the concern of certain bloggers worries over what “liberal NBC” airs before lauding Kobe. Co-host Gretchen Carlson yelled out, “What a stupid question!” and said Kobe “took him (Collinsworth) to task,” even though there was no hint of confrontation or correction in Bryant’s response.
One has to wonder if Carlson and her cohorts were as supportive when Bryant was facing sexual assault charges or if they would have been so kind had he campaigned for Hillary Clinton. Maybe they would. After all they are Fair and Balanced, but not very successful at quarter bounce or playful banter as their Aug. 27 “After the Show” Show showed.
Another interesting look at the Last Transformation of Kobe can be found in the Nike sponsored documentary, Road to Redemption. Not only can Bryant be seen simply abusing a teammate by repeatedly picking his pocket, but that he was as able to take orders as give them out. The ease with which he interacts with team-mates makes his criticism of Lakers’team-mates seem strangely out of character.
Whether the purity of the new Bryant will last into the upcoming NBA season remains to be seen. But for the time being, Bryant has remade his image - not through carefully orchestrated interviews but with action and responsibility. Love him or loathe him, you have to be impressed.
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