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07/03/2006: "Quitter: The Darth Kobe Story"

DarthKobe (204k image)

Quitter The Darth Kobe Story
Written By Robert Littal
Email Robert Littal

Are you hearing the whispers? At the water cooler, on the message boards, sports
talk radio, in the papers and all over the streets. They are saying Darth quit. Kobe Bean
Bryant the Ted Bundy of the NBA pulled a “Pippen” or a “Duran” depending on how old you
are in Game 7 against the Phoenix Suns. How is this possible? How does the most
competitive player in the NBA give up, admits defeat and fails to get off on his stool in the
12th round? How can perception change so much in a couple of days? From comparisons
to MJ to comparisons to 50 Cent when real thugs are around. Is it possible that Bean is a
studio gangsta? Did this really happen?

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To get the answer to this question you have to go back to when Darth dropped 62 in 3
quarters against the Mavericks and the media criticized him for not going for 80, that is
where the seed was planted for what happen in Game 7. When Bean dropped the “T.O.”
on the Raptors and was criticized for shooting too much, the seed was sprouting. When
Young Kobe played the role of Magic Johnson in games 1-3 in the series against the Suns
and was finally given love for being a “team player”, the flowers starting to grow. When
Byrant did his MJ impression in Game 4 and everyone started to compare him to the
greatest players in the game, the colors of the petals were in full bloom. But in Game 6 with
Kobe (with a little help from Lamar Odom) is the only Laker to show up and single handily
keeps them in the game going 20-35 draining 3s from all over the court, he gets criticized
once again for shooting too much and not being a “team player” (Charles Barkley even
comments that the 15 misses were the reasons the Suns won which qualifies for the most
asisnine comment of the year) the petals start to fall off the flower. Darth finds out that 22
writers leave him off the ballot for MVP. Once again I repeat 22 writers thought that Kobe
Byrant was not one of the top 5 players in the NBA this year (by the way their voting
privileges should be revoked). At this point the flower had died under the heat of the Sun
(pun definitely intended).

Which brings us to Game 7. Game 7 is where legends are made especially if you win
on the road. So you are Kobe, you have gone from being hated, to loved and backed to
hated within 2 weeks how do you respond? You start off playing like you did in Game 6
torching the Suns (more puns), but unfortunately your teammates are also playing like they
did in Game 6. You have your 20+ points in the first half and your team is getting blown out
by 15. Not because of you, but because your team hasn’t shown any intensity since Game
3. Phillip has been telling you that there is no way you can win the series unless the Smush
Parkers of the world start believing they are John Paxson, Steve Kerr or BJ Armstrong of
this generation. You are sitting in your locker down 15 and you have to make a decision to
make and for the first time all year Darth Kobe blinked and reverted to Kobe Skywalker.

The whole premise of the Darth Kobe persona is the fact that Bryant had realized that
the majority of people, players and media will never like him regardless of what he does and
to use that as fuel to destroy everything in his wake. Up to this point it was working, but for
the first time I believe Kobe did what he thought “YOU” wanted him to do instead of what he
wanted to do. In the back of his mind he knew that he could probably score 60 points and
the Lakers would still lose by 20. He also knew if that happened he would absolutely get
crushed the next day by the media, so instead he attempted to get his teammates involved
in the 2nd half. Unfortunately without Kobe keeping them close the team showed why Kobe
should have been the MVP as they continuously blew opportunity after opportunity and a
15-point lead quickly grew to a 25-point lead for the Suns.

If you read my article “Darth Kobe” (what are you waiting for click the link) one of the
things that Kobe can’t hide are his emotions. Whatever he is saying out loud mean
nothing. You can look at his face and clearly know what he is thinking. When Kobe was on
the bench in the 4th quarter, you knew the disgust he was feeling for his teammates, but
even more telling you could see that he knew he made a huge mistake. Instead of doing
what he thought was best, he did what he what “YOU” thought was best and it had backfired
on him.

I must admit I have to laugh when I heard media and fans alike pointing out the fact
that Michael Jordan would have never gone out like that. They like to point out specifically
the fact that Michael Jordan dropped 63 on the Celtics in a clinching OT loss. Kobe had
just dropped 50 in a loss and was roundly slammed. You think the criticism is bad now just
imagine if Kobe had dropped 60 and the Lakers lost, do you really think the media would
have commended him on going down with no bullets in his gun? If you do then you are
simply naïve or ignorant to the fact that the hate for Bean runs deep.

When 22 writers keep you off their MVP ballots it is personal. Kobe has crossed over
into Barry Bonds and Terrell Owens land. It doesn’t matter what he does he is going to get
slammed. It has nothing to do with Kobe the basketball player, but Kobe the person. There
are several players in the NBA who play a similar game as Kobe’s. None of them play it as
well and none of them are hated the way Kobe is.

Similar to Barry Bonds and T.O., the majority of this hate lays at the feet of Kobe.
Kobe did help run Shaq out of town, Kobe did at times not play team ball, Kobe did cheat on
his wife by dry humping a woman in Colorado, Kobe is arrogant, Kobe is somewhat selfish
and Kobe does come across at times as fake and insincere. All of the things are true and
all are reasons why I can understand why people would not like him personally, but it has
nothing to do with the fact he is the best player in the game of basketball right now. The
fact that things off the court are affecting people’s opinion of him on the court is what is
wrong. Only one thing is going to quiet the critics and that is a championship. It doesn’t
matter if Kobe gets to Game 7 of the NBA Finals and loses the critics will be there. The only
way Kobe ever gets the love he wants is to take a team to a championship.

The worst thing that probably happen to Bean is playing like Magic Johnson in those first 3
games because it gave him a false sense of security. He started to trust the media, trust
the fans and most importantly trust his teammates. Kobe didn’t let down his teammates his
teammates let him down. Kobe was not the reason the Lakers didn’t close out the Suns.
Smush Parker, Kwame Brown, Luke Walton, Brian Cook and etc etc were the reasons the
Lakers aren’t playing the Clippers right now, but that doesn’t matter because the only
person people focus on is Bean.

So to go back to the original question did Kobe quit? The answer to that is yes, but
not in the 2nd half of Game 7. He quit believing that people wouldn’t judge him by what
happen in Colorado. He quit believing that people wouldn’t judge him by what happened
with Shaq. He quit believing that people wouldn’t criticize him for doing what he believed
they wanted him to do. He quit believing that he had to be Darth Kobe.

If you think this is going to stop Bean you are wrong, you know he is going to come
back stronger, faster and even more determined. To him this is just a lesson learned and
the lesson is simple. Once you go to the darkside there is no coming back.