Reputations a disservice to play of Bryant, Carter
Posted: Monday January 9, 2006 3:45PM; Updated: Monday January 9, 2006 7:34PM
Kobe Bryant has scored at least 30 points in 20 of the Lakers' 30 games this season.
John W. McDonough/SI
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You can be forgiven if you don't fully embrace the idea of Kobe Bryant and Vince Carter as, well, fully-embraceable NBA superstars.
There's a lot to like, and dislike, about these two; as even the most dyspeptic of league observers and pie-eyed NBA optimists are often torn when deciding whether or not to root for Carter or Kobe. Appreciation of their craft, usually, isn't a problem; it takes a real nasty sort, frustrated with his or her own life, to deny themselves the pleasure of watching players as good as Kobe Bean and VC just because they find their attitudes so distasteful. We're dealing in the world of professional athletics, remember, so to dislike one because of his demeanor probably means disliking all. The amateur ranks aren't much cleaner, so unless you're ready to fork over some cash for the Ivy League Pass on your satellite dish, be ready to deal with a miscreant or 400.
Based upon athletic skills alone, Carter may be the more detestable of the two. Sometime during the 2001-02 season, he gave up on his own skills. Scared of injury, Carter turned into a 6-foot-7 version of SteveKerr, preferring the fadeaway jumper or ill-timed trey to an attack on the rim. It was a disappointing transformation, because when Carter was gliding toward the cup with a sense of purpose, or throwing his body into the paint at a pell-mell angle, he was a breathtaking player to behold. By the time his Toronto Raptors drafted Chris Bosh in '03, Carter had given up on his team -- listlessly sleepwalking through games, essentially begging his employers for a trade.
The Raptors relented, and VC was needlessly gifted with a starting slot in new Jersey alongside Jason Kidd. (there's a shot to any karma-based faith system, eh?). Surprise of surprises, Carter actually played the way someone being paid $12 million was expected to play. In the second half of '04-05, Carter was as good as any wingman in the league.
After an uninspired start, Carter and the Nets picked up this season where they left off last year and are currently riding a 10-game win streak, thanks in large part to the 33.5 points and 5.1 assists Carter has averaged during the streak.
On Sunday, Carter nailed a game-winning 3-pointer to beat his former team in Toronto. It was an ordinary victory to everyone but Vince, who still feels unduly wronged by the organization that not only made him a star, but kowtowed to his every whim both financially and otherwise, and ceded to his final request to the (great) detriment of their entire organization. Yes, the Raptors made a series of bum moves with VC on board, but none came without an enthused blessing from their franchise star. In fact, the team's finest move (drafting Bosh) was met with a series of catcalls from Vince, demanding the team trade their current 22 and 10 guy for a vet. It's just more baggage we can't help thinking about while he tears up the Eastern Conference ...