Bryant's outrage over Malone's alleged come-on hypocritical
Posted: Monday December 13, 2004 2:04PM; Updated: Monday December 13, 2004 2:04PM
Vanessa and Kobe Bryant seem unable -- or unwilling -- to keep hurtful details about their private lives private.
Frank Micelotta/Getty Images
You're thinking this must be one of those wild Internet rumors, a myth born in some cyberspace chat room. You know that Kobe Bryant seems to lead a bizarre, Playmakers-meets-Desperate Housewives sort of life, but surely this story can't be true. The whole thing sounds like one of those fabricated headlines from a supermarket tabloid. "KOBE: THE MAILMAN MADE A PASS AT MY WIFE."
But it's true -- not necessarily the allegations, but the fact that Kobe made them. He says that Karl Malone made several suggestive comments to Vanessa Bryant at a Lakers game on Nov. 23 at the Staples Center. While Bryant was hitting jumpers against the Milwaukee Bucks, Malone was in the stands, supposedly hitting on Kobe's wife. Malone has not yet commented publicly on the accusations.
Let's get the obligatory point out of the way: Making inappropriate comments to another man's wife obviously is unacceptable behavior. Don't try this at home, kids. If Malone, who is married, did what the Bryants say he did, he should be ashamed. But the story here isn't Malone -- it is, as always, Kobe. How exactly does a man who admitted to committing what became one of the most public acts of adultery in recent memory manage to work up a sense of outrage over a few out-of-line comments?
The Bryants say Malone supposedly suggested that Vanessa come over and give him a hug, and said he was "hunting little Mexican girls." (Vanessa Bryant is of Mexican ancestry.) Inappropriate? Sure. Bad taste? Absolutely. But it's doubtful that any of the alleged comments were as traumatic to Vanessa Bryant as these two little words: Eagle, Colorado. "What's wrong with you? How could you?" Kobe reportedly said to Malone. It's not hard to imagine Vanessa saying those very words to Kobe about a year ago.
The fact that Bryant has hurt his wife doesn't mean he shouldn't try to protect her from further pain, of course. But it's hard to understand why he would make such a private matter public. It's just another example of the odd choices Bryant has been making since that fateful night in Eagle. From divulging a dirty little secret about Shaquille O'Neal supposedly paying women to keep quiet about his trysts with them, to reshaping the Lakers' roster into Kobe and a bunch of guys, to this latest flare-up with Malone, Bryant has shown a troubling tendency to make the spectacularly wrong decision.
Lakers owner Jerry Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak have to be wondering if they made the wrong decision themselves in choosing Bryant in his power struggle with O'Neal and former coach Phil Jackson. As supremely talented as Kobe may be, he's also one of those players who is always surrounded by drama, usually of his own making. It's hard to believe that almost everyone thought Bryant was on the verge of his fourth NBA title last June, because he has never seemed as far from another title as he does right now, as a lone superstar trying to carry his team into the playoffs while he fights these juicy little battles in his personal life. It's difficult to see Kobe living this soap opera life forever without it affecting his performance or distracting his teammates.
We may never know exactly what Malone said to Vanessa Bryant. Kobe's and Vanessa's version of events may be totally accurate, although the comments they attribute to Malone are certainly open to different interpretations. But one thing that's clear is that a new controversy seems to spring up around Kobe on a regular basis, and the pattern shows no signs of letting up. The once-mighty Lakers will continue to rise and fall on the performance of their bizarre prince, hoping that they will be able to survive the next Kobe crisis. With Kobe, the next one is never far away.
Sports Illustrated senior writer Phil Taylor writes about a Hot Button topic every Monday on SI.com.