Kobe’s Undies Are As Baggy As His Game Shorts

Activision goes all Risky Business parody to promote the newest Guitar Hero. I see no problem with that.

Tony Hawk makes sense — doesn’t Activision also make his Pro Skater games? — and Kobe Bryant is just funny, as is Michael Phelps. But I wonder if Alex Rodriguez had even heard of the game; maybe he has.  He’s the only one I can’t really see as a gamer at all.

In fact, Activision totally whiffed when they decided not to bring the most obvious candidate for an ad for their game in:

Seriously, major missed opportunity to poke some more fun at itself and the game. They DID have to go for people who might actually be able to sell things (although, again, why go for A-Rod? How good a pitchman is he?)

(Photo via Deadspin.)

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Hush, Now

I had the accidental good sense to watch the gold medal match between the U.S. and Spain while out on the town; the trying-too-hard-to-be-L.A. club I was in happened to have the live telecast on all three of the flat screens behind the bar, so I watched without commentary and with a Euro-house “untz-untz-untz” in the background that was solely broken up by the DJ spinning M.I.A.’s “Paper Plates,” fitting because no one on the corner had swagger like both teams had in that game.

If you want to see a nightclub tilted towards a large douchebag factor turn their attention to a T.V. set like that, make the game close, it will inspire shouts of “U.S.A! U.S.A!” in seconds. Anyway, it was compelling television — the manic pace, like an All-Star Game that meant something, the sick dunk Rudy Fernandez put on Dwight Howard , the scrambles all over the floor. The end was in doubt until Kobe Bryant hit that three and got fouled — because there wasn’t a whole lot of defense on both ends.  But damn, did I love this:

(Hush, hush. I think I hear you calling my name.)

I’m sure Jacques Rogge will issue a statement before the closing ceremonies admonishing Bryant for not showing the proper amount of sportsmanship with that selfish gesture. (Leave Usain Bolt alone, Jacques!) Meanwhile, in the club, as soon as Bryant whipped that three out, a complete stranger and I just looked at each other and imitated that exact hush (a total sports bar moment in a non-sports bar.)  The squad of ballers just told a long line of fuckwads to shut their mouths:

– They hushed everyone who said NBA players were too “selfish,” too “undisciplined” to play together for all those years after Athens.

Dwyane Wade hushed up anyone who wondered about how good he would be after being hurt for a large part of last year as the team’s sixth man.

Kobe Bryant just hushed up any of the last few people out there who thought he couldn’t play as part of a team concept. By no means was he the leading scorer, but he was an important cog in the mix.

– The team hushed up anyone who thought that the system that foreign players were brought up in was somehow inherently superior and wrote so loudly in print, with overtones of outright racism. (If any game looked like Mike D’Antoni’s “Seven Seconds or Less”, it was chunks of this one, and proof the U.S. team can adjust — although Coach K cannot, see more on this later.)

– The gold medal ought to hush up anyone who continues to defend Larry Brown’s coaching effort in 2004. How a college coach (even one with the respected track record of Mike Krzyzewski) could get grown men to play defensively first and yet a supposed defensive coaching genius like Brown could not ought to be worthy of a bit of scrutiny. Yes, different squads, different process, but Brown was more of an Achilles heel in Athens than his players were. He didn’t set a very good rotation, and the most talented players seemed to be in his doghouse for no reason.

To be brutally honest, Coach K didn’t look like he had all the answers in game (Spain goes to zone and no Michael Redd or Tayshaun Prince; no Carlos Boozer when both Chris Bosh and Howard were having issues), but if the philosophy was, “play defense and do everything you want on offense,” then it worked for the first few rounds.

– They hushed me up, because I honestly thought this team needed another big man, but they were able to run circles around teams.

Unfortunately, not all the haters are hushed up — there’s a lot of qualifying “But, but it was a close game” to many of the wrie-ups, as if the entire process was supposed to be easy. The world has gotten better; we are the gold standard again, but it won’t ever be like it was back in the day when the U.S. won by default. That’s a good thing.

I wish the win would hush up —

– Doug Collins, who still isn’t over 1972 and said so in damn near every teelcast. It was nice not to hear him talk for the final.

Jemele Hill, who penned an inexplicable column suggesting the black community was placing an importance on this team winning gold.  I wonder whom she is talking to. As if one gold medal lets up on the stupid stereotypes about black NBA ballers that sportswriters use all the damn time. Call out the writers who use these stupid tropes.

Bill Walton, who appeared on ESPN minutes after the semi-final against Argentina ended to spit trash about how it was the sloppiest game he’d seen on the U.S.’s part, it wasn’t a good game, and the only reason the U.S. won was because Manu Ginobili got hurt. Since I’m on the West Coast, I watched the game on delay an hour later and saw something completely different. Amazing. It wasn’t nearly as apocalyptic as he made it out to be, but then, that’s Walton — anything that isn’t John Wooden-based does not meet his approval.

– Every writer whom, in the next few days, will give Jerry Colangelo and Krzyzewski all the damn credit for the team. These are the people who pushed the idea of a “Redeem Team”, not only because it sounded good and made good headline copy, but as if it was some damn fault of the players that the U.S. didn’t win everything basketball-related and were solely responsible for a supposed decline in the American hoops game.  No one calls out the minor-leaguers and journeymen we sent to rep the U.S. in baseball when they never win gold; no one is raising a stink over the U.S. losing out on softball gold for the first time since it became an Olympic sport.

Photo: Getty/AFP/Filippo Monteforte

Ballers Against Genocide

The title is the name I would have gone with, but Aid Still Required works — and getting names like Kobe Bryant and Grant Hill behind PSAs, photo shoots, and other work to bring attention to the genocide in Darfur is a Good Thing, particularly when athletes are not viewed as socially and politically active people. The Darfur campaign (they also have pages for Katrina relief and the 2004 Southeast Asian tsunami) also has Steve Nash, Baron Davis, Derek Fisher, Emeka Okafor, Matt Barnes,, Andrew Bynum, Ira Newble, Eric Snow, and Luol Deng involved.

I was watching ESPN’s Outside the Lines, in a rare break from the network’s day of Favre fellatio (they went right back to Favre in the next segment), and Hill was explaining why he and other athletes got involved, and much it harkened back to the old chestnuts we rely on and love: because players like Jim Brown got involved in these issues, and he felt like he was compelled to speak out and support it. Hill acknowledged that with how things are problematic in the U.S., we forget about injustices abroad — and he wanted to help put more notoriety behind it.

Hey, if the PSAs get enough traction, make it on serious TV rotation, and get more people to pay attention to brutality across the world, I’m all for it.

Kobe Hearts Coach K.

The lovefest surrounding USA Basketball right now is something that could almost make you puke. Everyone is speaking well of Coach Mike Krzyzewski, the leader of this squad, when not leading the Blue Devil horde — and of course, Kobe Bryant is making some of the louder statement, not entirely surprising, given how the rumors swirled about Krzyzewski possibly coaching the Lakers when Phil Jackson first left. And they’re all talking about how Coach K. would do awesome in the NBA. Quoth Kobe:

“He can be so intense because he’s so passionate about the game, but at the same time he has a great sense of humor. I don’t think a lot of people know that about him.

“There’s no question in my mind that he would be a great NBA coach. . . . He has that passion about what he does and when you have that commitment to winning, you can’t help but be successful.”

Either the players are just being rah-rah about the coach or there’s a little bit of denial going on. Krzyzewski is a great college coach, no doubt, but his most effective strategies of recruiting — touting the Duke name in college basketball much like Notre Dame is bandied about by its football coaches — his system where he plugs in recruits and they play his game, and his authoritarian control over the program would all be gone.

I’m aware it’s perfectly cliche to write this by the point, but the motivations between the college and pro level are drastically different, and I’m in the crowd that doubts Krzyzewski’s ability to survive in the environment. There is a reason John Calipari and Rick Pitino are bandied about as cautionary tales. While your players may be perfectly supportive of you when the country’s team is not their primary commitment, when money gets involved, the rules change.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the renewal program with Coach K and Jerry Colangelo helming helped bring the U.S. team back to competing in a way fans are accustomed to. Just don’t believe that the success could cross over to the NBA. Krzyzewski works as a college and possibly as a national program coach because it’s his agenda; he’s in control. In the NBA, he’d be just another coach fighting to keep his job and dealing with the personalities and egos of professional players.

(Photo: Getty/Andrew D. Bernstein)

By Kanye’s Standard, Kobe’s a Punk.

Brooks clues me in to the apparent reality that Kobe Bryant’s apology jewelry fund was not enough to keep his marriage to Vanessa going, pointing to a report from KCBS that they may be doing the old Tammy Wynette fairly soon (and most of that report is cribbed from Media Takeout):

The source close to the couple has stated, “There’s very little for [Kobe and Vanessa] to fight over. Since there was no pre-nuptial agreement, Vanessa’s entitled to half the marital assets … Besides, Kobe stands to make a lot more money in the years to come – and that will be all his (MediaTakeOut.com).”

Kobe Bryant has had a very lucrative basketball career, to say the least, and is estimated to have earned nearly $200 million.

This is, of course, community property and subject to the conditions of the settlement. However, at this point in Kobe’s career the best may yet to come.

I’m not sure quite how that last sentence pans out. How is the best yet to come for Kobe — that is, unless he’s dealt somewhere else? He’s still at his physical game peak — he’s nowhere close to leaving that for another few years. As far as endorsements and pop cultural cache go for athletes, there’s no going back to the potential status he had prior to the rape accusations and the very public dissolution of his relationship with Shaq, so we have to assume that the concept of making a lot more has to do with his contract with the Lakers and his shoe deal (even at his peak with Sprite and all that, Kobe was never what LeBron could be and is, endorsement-wise).

But, as far as his actual career goes, he will either need to be traded or sign on with a team that has a shot at winning, because that isn’t the Lakers with Mitch Kupchak at the helm, who couldn’t or wouldn’t give up the chips necessary for Kevin Garnett, and isn’t likely to do it for Jermaine O’Neal. Likely scenario: opt out in ’08 and then engineer a sign-and-trade, but who will mortgage their future to get him? Trading to equal out would require way too much. Right now, it’s tough to imagine Kobe ever winning another championship ring, and if he does, it’s not happening in Los Angeles.

That said, how did #24 get married without a pre-nup? He’d already been in the League four years and didn’t get the real-world equivalent of the Miles Massey* pre-nup when he got hitched?

(*I’m pretty sure I was one of the few people who liked Intolerable Cruelty a lot.)

UPDATE: KCBS has taken the report down, according to Brooks.

So When Does The Mamba Get Shipped Out?

The story to watch this week as the convergence of the NBA draft is upon us, with free agency also coming, continues to be Kobe Bryant’s demand for a trade out of L.A. and away from the Lakers, which has represented the ultimate in P.R. debacles for Jerry Buss and the possible beginning of another era of mediocre Laker basketball, last seen post-Magic’s HIV diagnosis.  It cannot be overstated just how badly this looks on paper for the organization, and how bad the fallout will be in L.A. Despite the rape charges, despite the often-selfish appearances, despite everything else, a good deal of L.A. loves Kobe, and having a star of his background drives ticket sales. The latest in the L.A. Times mentions his blog entry on kb24.com and the Doctor’s letter to season ticket holders, with the usual stuff about commitment to a winning organization.

The reason this is so interesting to watch as the draft approaches is because just as a thought pattern, it only makes sense if Kobe is dealt out of the conference, and every analyst and their mother that ESPN can dig up is convinced Bryant is Chicago-bound, which only furthers a couple story lines and gives us a new one:

  • Kobe and MJ’s legacy
  • The Bulls’ attempts to break through in the East
  • Kobe vs. LeBron for Eastern Conference dominance

When a superstar demands a trade in the off-season, and especially at this time, it’s like getting another shot in the draft — especially because Bryant is nowhere near over the hill, when you think veteran, you don’t think someone as young as Bryant.  It will be increasingly difficult to think of the Lakers without Kobe, but if we do, it will happen this week or not at all. Draft chips are the only way the Lakers can salvage some form of value out of trading a franchise player in addition to current players, and this is the best time to strike.

If the ping-pong balls were not kind to the Eastern Conference this year, then maybe the franchise player trade demand may be.

How Must David Stern Feel Right Now?

He’s probably chugging Maalox as we speak, as we are in the midst of the NBA playoffs right now, with a seriously good series developing in Cleveland and some star-making of Deron Williams in the West (despite being down 3-1 to the Spurs), and Kobe has officially usurped all the headlines regarding basketball now. You could be forgiven for forgetting that the playoffs were still going on, by the way, there still is a game tonight — where probably everyone and their mother thinks the Spurs will finish off the Jazz after handing them their first home playoff loss in Game Four. Despite that, these playoffs have not been as horrific for me to watch as a lot of others have claimed, especially with the last two games of LeBron.

But back to the topic at hand — from the Lottery being televised, and now to Kobe’s demand for a trade, which is now a demand rather than pussyfooting around the idea — this story has grown out of control so quickly that it’s really tough to track where it’s going. I have a hard time thinking about where this could go. Sports By Brooks suspects the “insider” that talked ish about Kobe is the Big Hippie on the bench (and if Kobe gets dealt, Jerry Buss is done as owner — Roland Lazenby supports the idea of Jackson leak at TrueHoop). Both the Big Lead and TrueHoop give us trade scenarios, not a lot of which actually sound plausible. I don’t think the Lakers would deal Kobe in conference, and unless John Paxson feels like getting bilked in Chicago, I’m not sure Kobe goes there — would you deal Kobe for both Luol Deng and Ben Gordon, which is what Kupchak would probably ask for? I wouldn’t.

The Philly scenario of dealing for something involving Andre Iguodala, a draft pick, and a couple other players might work, but Kobe would knock that one down — AI asked out, you think Billy King has changed as a GM any since then?

I suspect Kobe will still be a Laker until he can opt out. He might play angry and he’ll put up his points, but it’s going to be a very ugly couple of years. Regardless of how this ends, the denouement of this saga is worse than the break-up of the original Showtime, and the early-to-mid-90s drought period that was the Lakers until 1996, when Shaq signed and Kobe was acquired via a draft day trade.