BY: BEN DENSON
Pride goes before the fall, and the fool’s pride will forever be in a free-fall. Like the fool I am and always will be, I try to balance arrogance with humbleness, but lately I’ve felt shrouded in a blanket of pride and arrogance. Every day I feel myself drawing closer and closer to the aura of Kobe Bryant. I’m breathing his hubris, and like it had been for the player, it will be my downfall. Unfortunately, I’m not the greatest Lakers shooting guard of all time. I don’t have amazing talent to depend on.
Kobe’s planned retirement at the end of this season represents the end of an NBA era—a negative era similar to that of a whiny child. Stuck in-between the team-oriented styles of Michael Jordan and LeBron, I grew up watching Kobe play selfish basketball, lash out at teammates, and win championships. Feuds with former teammates Shaq, Dwight Howard and coach Mike D’Antoni helped tarnish his image. All the while Kobe set scoring records, clinched All-Star spots, and alienated NBA fans. His endorsement deals were virtually all dropped- only to be signed again by most of the same companies two years later.
With some humility Kobe has acknowledged his fiery past. “I was an idiot when I was a kid,” Bryant told USA Today this past summer. Referring to the public feud between himself and former teammate Shaquille O’Neal, this quote really encapsulates Kobe’s entire career. He made mistakes. He touched greatness. Like Cain and Abel, Kobe killed Shaq- forcing the loveable later to leave Los Angeles. Shaq is a fallen angel. What if Kobe had swallowed his pride and made nice with Shaq? We would have seen an age of Lakers dominance matched only by the Bill Russell 1960’s Boston Celtics.
The tragic superstar found redemption in back-to-back championships in 2009-2010. Although I firmly disagree with the public’s newly positive perception of Kobe after these two championships, it seems like society accepted Kobe’s relentless determination as an apology of sorts. Does winning two championships change the fact that Kobe admitted fault to sexual assault? It does not. The “Black Mamba’s” pride came to a peak in 2003 when he allegedly sexually assaulted a 19-year old hotel maid. And when it seemed like he would never come back from the deepest-darkest accusation, he defied all. Sending mixed messages to all the worlds’ youth, it seems like we have praised Kobe for his narcissism. Arrogance disguised as determination should never be praised.
Pride goes before the fall. Again, (and as per usual) as I write this column I’m confused. I want to use Kobe as a cautionary tale, but I also want to internalize forgiveness and understanding. If anyone can show us how unbearably difficult it is to control emotions, its Kobe. And if anyone has shown us how arrogant narcissism is the downfall of mankind, its Kobe. Maybe I should learn a lesson or two?
Like it or not, we admire athletes for their pride and confidence. Kobe nicknamed himself “Coach Vino” when his injuries caught up with his body a few seasons ago, because like wine he (thinks) he gets better with age. Pushing the limit between our admiration and denunciation, he can never be forgiven for his hubris, and can never be forgotten for his dominance.
“How many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?” asked the wise man. I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Guess who said that.