Given the national outpouring of grief, you’d think it was Mike who died.
No doubt Kobe Bryant’s daughter’s death compounds the tragedy of his. And my heart goes out to his family and the loved ones of the others who perished.
I’m just bemused by the beatification of Kobe. Hell, the Washington Post is even forbidding any mention of his most open and notorious sin. From The Guardian, January 27, 2020: “The Washington Post has suspended a journalist after she tweeted about Kobe Bryant’s historic sexual assault case shortly after the basketball player and his daughter died in a helicopter crash.”
Nothing to say
Incidentally, I should note here that I fully intended to eschew commenting on Kobe’s death. But after reading about the suspension of this journalist, Felecia Sonmez, I felt moved to do what little I could to stand in solidarity with her.
As it happens, I have written many commentaries on Kobe. They include “And the Oscar Goes to…,” posted March 5, 2018 (Yes, after winning 5 NBA rings, this lucky bugger won an Oscar), “Endgame for Kobe Bryant,” posted January 28, 2015, and “10 More Women Accuse Bill Cosby of … Rape,” posted April 23, 2005.
The last of these includes the following reference to his sexual assault case, which Sonmez actually had the journalistic balls to mention: Many court observers assumed this suit would be settled with financial dispatch, following the precedent Kobe Bryant set when he paid off his accuser (for what ultimately proved to be a $5-million romp!). …
Kobe had only one ‘disgruntled’ groupie to payoff. Moreover, his wife sparkled with understanding and support – flashing that $4 million diamond ring he tendered to shield her from public humiliation.
Except that, according to the Washington Post, such references should now be whitewashed.
Not in the top 10
Meanwhile, by any objective criteria, Kobe does not even rank among the “10 Greatest NBA Players of All Time.”
Because, according to no less a sports authority than ESPN’s Bleacher Report (October 2, 2013), those players, in descending order, are Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, LeBron James, Wilt Chamberlain, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon. But I digress …
Here is what I find so off-putting about this and similar out-pourings of grief in this age of social media (think Prince and Whitney – especially her eerily similar circumstances). The expression of condolences these days seems intended more to draw attention to the person tweeting them than to comfort the person who should be receiving them.
As I wrote in March 2015, “There’s something profoundly dehumanizing in people thinking that no thought, expression, or deed – no matter how personal or intimate – has any redeeming value unless it’s posted on social media. I realize, of course, that trying to correct this cultural trend is even more quixotic than trying to win the war on drugs.”
In other words, nothing would have made some of the condolences ‘friends’ tweeted about Kobe’s passing more complete than a selfie of them posing next to his crash site.
Other good men
I’m sure Kobe was a terrific father, teammate, mentor, and friend. I’m just equally sure the sports world is filled with men who are more so.
Which brings me back to my opening point. More than any player in any sport in modern times, Michael “Be Like Mike” Jordan personifies all the qualities people are now attributing to Kobe. As Kobe himself might say, “Keep it real, y’all.”
Anthony L. Hall is a native of The Bahamas with an international law practice in Washington, D.C. Read his columns and daily weblog at www.theipinionsjournal.com. Click on this commentary at www.flcourier.com to write your own response.