Dr Boyce Watkins: 5 Disturbing Observations about Kobe Bryant
Like the rest of the world, I was stunned to hear Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant argue
that it was somehow an unecessary burden for a black man to stand in
support of the late Trayvon Martin. If anything, the Trayvon Martin
case brought black people together in ways that we haven’t seen since
the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The case was clear cut:
Trayvon had no weapon. He wasn’t bothering anybody. He was stalked
out and murdered for appearing to look like a “thug.” George Zimmerman
is a free man and later showed that he is every bit as violent as the
world believed him to be. Case closed.
Even NBA athletes, many of whom have been intimidated to sleep by a
world that has become obsessed with empty materialism, stood in unity
with Trayvon. The biggest stars in the league, including LeBron James
and Dwyane Wade, gave touching tributes to the young teen who didn’t
deserve to die. Their leadership helped to inspire a nation, and I
applaud them for it.
But Kobe is a bit different. He wants to be a replica of Michael
Jordan, the man he could never quite match up to on the court. He
inherited nearly all of Jordan’s personality traits, both good and bad,
as if he’d been studying him since he was a child. Unlike LeBron James,
who’s been able to win championships without becoming a clone of
someone else, Kobe has become every bit as aloof, as disrespectful, as
robotic, as simple-minded, as disconnected as the original Air Jordan
This makes me sad, since Kobe could have been so much more than the empty, unhappy man he is today.
Here are five disturbing realizations about Kobe Bryant that we
should keep in mind. It might help put his sloppy words about Trayvon
Martin into their proper context:
1) He, quite frankly, appears to be a selfish a**hole: I won’t even go into the oddities of Kobe’s sexual assault case many years ago, where he was revealed to be the married man having unprotected sex with a woman he’d met an hour earlier
just a few years after Magic Johnson announced that he had HIV. If
sleeping with random women unprotected and risking your wife’s health
isn’t the root of selfishness, I don’t know what is.
We can also talk about the way Kobe’s spent his career jacking up
ill-advised shots and attacking his teammates in public. I’ve always
loved Kobe’s game when he’s playing well, but I’ve never wanted to meet
him. Kobe is like the 14th century astronomers who thought that the sun
revolved around the earth. But instead, Kobe believes that the
universe revolves about himself and won’t hear anything different.
2) He’s one-dimensional: For LeBron James, life
appears to be a mixture of possibilities, with as much meaning to be
found off the court as on it. Dwyane Wade is every bit as committed to
fatherhood as he is to dribbling and shooting. For Kobe, there is
nothing but basketball, basketball, basketball and more basketball. He
drives his teammates insane with his “win or die” mentality, and it
probably makes him very difficult to play with. While this might be
what it takes for him to win NBA titles, it can also make you into a
horrible person. Once again, I ask you to take a look at Michael Jordan’s hurtful, nasty Hall of Fame speech as a great case-in-point.
3) He’s arrogant: Kobe’s confidence has served him
well throughout the years, helping him rise to some of the most
significant achievements in his sport. But arrogance can also rob you
of your ability to empathize with others. Kobe’s decision to engage in
ad hoc social commentary on an issue so important to so many people is
reflective of a man who simply doesn’t give a damn. I was hurt by
Kobe’s remarks, since it’s sad to see one of our most prominent black
men have more commitment to making McDonald’s commercials than he has to
saving the lives of young black men like himself. Kobe could have just
said, “no comment.”
4) He’s materialistic: If a corporation were to pay
Kobe to say something, he’d say it without hesitation. Men like Kobe
Bryant and Michael Jordan would buckdance for chicken if there is enough
money involved. But the mere idea that standing up for your community
is the right thing to do seems to escape them, like trying to teach a
ballerina to shoot an AK-47. Maybe black people just aren’t as
profitable as the white ones.
5) He’s disconnected: Jim Brown made compelling points about Kobe’s lack of connection to the black community
during a recent interview on the Arsenio Hall Show. Brown, like
Muhammad Ali, is one of the greatest athletes of all time (as good or
better than Kobe himself), and it wasn’t just because he dominated men
on the field. Brown is one of the greatest because he understood the
importance of using his power to elevate the circumstances of the
community that had given him so much. Kobe’s inability to commit
himself to something greater than himself makes him an extraordinary
athlete, but a pathetic human being.
I hope that Kobe retracts his statements and keeps his social
commentary to himself. It’s ironic that a man who begged for sympathy
after cheating on his wife with no protection can’t provide a lick of
understanding for an unarmed teenager who had his future stolen by a
deranged, racist, vigilante. People didn’t support Trayvon just
because he was black. They supported him because it was the right thing to do.
I also find it ironic that a man like Bryant will remain completely
silent when it comes to speaking up for black America, but becomes bold
and vocal when given an incentive to trash us. Sitting on the bench in
the fight for racial justice is bad enough, but it’s even worse when you
work with our enemies to deliberately sabotage progress that is being
made. This turns us into Django and turns Kobe into Samuel L. Jackson’s
character, who got shot in his a** at the end of the movie. It’s a
myth to believe that a racist has to be white…there are black racists
all around us.
Kobe, grow up brother, it’s not always about you. This one is about the black community.
Dr Boyce Watkins is a Finance Profesor at Syracuse University and author of the lecture series, “The 8 Principles of Black Male Empowerment.” To have Dr Boyce Watkins commentary delivered to your email, please click here.