In all my years of watching sports, I've never come across as polarizing of a figure as Kobe Bryant. Kobe Bryant isn't one of those players that everyone loves, like Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson, but he also isn't necessarily one of those players that everyone hates, like Barry Bonds. However, he definitely is someone that doesn't garner neutral feelings from fans. Fans today either completely love him or totally hate him.
It's rare for a player as talented and as accomplished as Bryant to be hated as much as he is. If you don't know what I'm talking about, just read some of the comments here on fanhouse and on other popular blogs whenever a Kobe Bryant topic comes up. There are readers around the blogosphere that are seemingly on guard for the next Kobe post where they can talk about how irrelevant of a basketball player and person he is.
Here are a few reasons I think there are a few reasons he might be hated the way he is:
The Lack of Street Credibility
Kobe Bryant grew up with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth. His dad was a pro basketball player, so Kobe didn't come from the same low income background that a ton of basketball players are expected to come from. His background made it seem like he had things a little too. Almost as if the glory he was given out of high school was just handed to them. The people that say this obviously don't know how hard the kid worked on his game. Isn't it funny that the same populace that hates on NBA players for supposedly embracing thug culture hates the one black player that is the antithesis of that? That's what we call a no win situation.
Ruffling the Feathers of Shaquille O'neal and Other Veterans
D-Wil broke this down really well the other day. Shaq and the veterans on the Lakers didn't like Kobe because he didn't walk the traditional line of bowing down to his veteran peers. From the jump, Kobe was all about achieving his goal of becoming the best player in the history of the game. He came in and actually worked hard 24-7, and instead of going out at night locked himself in his hotel room and watched game film all night. His veteran counterparts didn't take to this very well, and from the jump pushed him away from their tight inner circle and made Kobe an outsider. In his early years, the only players that actually showed him guidance were Byron Scott and Eddie Jones. The rest of the guys basically ostracized him and talked poorly about him in the media. Shaq and Phil Jackson might be the most culpable for Kobe Bryant's bad P.R. on this matter. Because of Shaq and Phil, people blame the break up of the Lakers on Kobe, when Kobe is just a very small player in the entire thing. Read D-Wil's piece for more info.
Kobe Bryant wants to be the best player of all time. In many fan's minds that means challenging the guy that most believe is the greatest player of all-time, Michael Jordan. In the eyes of most fans, Michael Jordan is a basketball God whose accomplishments will never be matched. I don't think Kobe has reached the level of Michael with his on court performance, but I do believe that he is on track to getting there. People forget that Kobe is just 28 years old and already has accomplished things that place him in the class of some of the greatest players of all-time. The fact that Kobe is the first player to challenge the all-mighty MJ doesn't sit well with a lot of people that idolized MJ throughout the years. The funny thing about MJ is that the reason many people idolize him the way they do is that he had great marketing and P.R. behind him. Between Nike and the NBA's marketing prowess, it's a wonder why people don't go to church on Sunday and pray to the Jumpman.
MJ fans idolize Jordan for his alpha male personality, and yet hate Kobe for his. Michael's called a winner, while Kobe is called selfish, arrogant, and aloof. I have a feeling if David Faulk and David Stern didn't manage MJ into a global marketing icon, we'd probably hear people saying the same thing about Mr. Jumpman.
The Colorado Incident
There are people that hated Kobe Bryant before the Colorado incident that will say it's the only reason they dislike the guy. Kobe was never convicted of rape charges, but yet was found guilty in the court of public opinion. There were many people that were waiting for Kobe to slip up like that, and when he did, they pounced on him with all of their might. Even if people admit that Kobe most likely didn't rape the girl, there are people that hop on him for being an adulterer. Yet, these are the same people that give other known adulterous NBA players (such as MJ) a pass for their transgressions. I've mentioned this before, but Kobe's biggest mistake in the entire Colorado incident was not surrounding himself with people (an entourage) when he traveled that could mitigate an incident like that before it became public. Believe it or not, these kind of things happen to athlete's and entertainers all of the time. Most of the time you just don't hear about them because high profile individuals usually surround themselves with an entourage that can put out that sort of fires before they erupt out of control. I believe that most people that hate him for the Colorado incident, hated him before, and would probably still hate him even if the incident never occurred. Just like most people that loved him before the incident still love him today. That's just what polarizing figures do.
So you tell me. What do you think of Kobe Bryant? Why do you think he's the most polarizing figure in sports today?
Previously at Fanhouse:
With 60, Kobe Again Makes History
Kobe Better Than Jordan? Yeah, Right
Tex Winter on Kobe and Jordan
Kobe Is Great But Doesn't Make His Teammates Better
Kobe's #24 Jersey is the Best Seller in the U.S and in China