Posted: Thursday February 2, 2006 11:15AM; Updated: Thursday February 2, 2006 11:15AM
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Kobe Bryant has become one of sports' great villains. If he's not on the level with Bonds, Owens and Artest, he's pretty darn close. Fans, media and other players seem to relish any chance they have to bash the 27-year-old superstar.
And while criticism of Kobe's off-the-court life is warranted -- and was brought on by Bryant himself -- I'm not buying the knocks on Kobe's game. I'm also not sure what Kobe could do to make people happy. And in the wake of his 81-point outburst against the Raptors on Jan. 22, the target on Bryant's chest grown quite a bit.
People are saying he shoots too much. People say he doesn't get his teammates involved. People say you can't win games with one player scoring so many points.
The man scored the second-most points in a game in NBA history. He's putting up monster numbers night in and night out -- and he's been getting ripped for it. In the wake of the 81-point explosion, we had to hear coaches remind us that in the long run, you can't win games that way. We even had to hear Vince Carter -- the same Vince Carter who reportedly told opponents which play his team was running when he wanted to get out of Toronto -- tell us that Kobe's memorable game could have a bad influence on young players. He single-handedly beat Toronto -- and isn't that what's supposed to matter most? -- and the first reaction from some people was, "he's a ball hog." That's lunacy. Is Kobe Bryant supposed to pass up shots so Smush Parker can take them? Is he not supposed to implement his will on a game when he can get the job done and make the shots?
But what's even more confusing is that many of the people who bash Kobe for his "selfishness" are asking if he can score 100 points. And if Kobe did top Wilt Chamberlain's record, are we then going to rip him for taking too many shots? You can't score 100 points if you don't hog the ball. Kobe can't win. He's damned if he does and damned if he doesn't.
The bottom line is that outside of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant is the NBA's most exciting player. People tune in and/or buy tickets to see him. He is today's version of Showtime. We should sit back and appreciate it.