Friday, July 11, 2008

If Kobe's playing, I'll be watching

In a shocking turn of events, I'll be watching next month's Olympic basketball tournament with a vested interest.

Pre-2007, I had only followed Team USA-related proceedings with sporadic, exceedingly half-hearted curiousity. In other words, I didn't really care. Never, ever sat down and watched a full game. Bor-ing. Understand, I love basketball more than just about anything. Since the sixth grade it's what people have associated me with. It's my identity. And yet I had never been moved to give more than a smidgen of attention to international basketball.

But starting last year, all that changed.

What piqued my interest?

I'll give you a few hints.

Most famous four letter name in sports that isn't an acronym. Nickamed after the world's deadliest serpent. It would stand to reason that we'd all be sick and tired of talking about him, but we never get sick and tired of talking about him.

Yeah, that's right.

Another Kobe article.

Trust, I almost couldn't bring myself to write another story about Kobe. It's the middle of July, for Christ's sake. But once again, he's relevant. He's always relevant.

I'll be watching the Olympics this summer because of Bean. Mambazo. Mr. Bink. The most fascinating figure in sports. This Hardwood Paroxysm piece from earlier this year captured the Kobe phenomenon. I live in Los Angeles, I'm a diehard Lakers fan, and I watch every Lakers game, so I couldn't be any more familiar with his game. It never gets old watching him play because he's so good and so exciting, but that's not why I'll be watching either. He's not Mike Tyson, who's you have to watch because there's always a chance he's going to do something completely crazy. Nor is he a T.O. or Ocho Cinco, WWE-level performers who make their games more entertaining by injecting doses of fun and amusement. And there's not a chance he's going to score 81 points in one game (at least I don't think there is).

But just by being who he is, he's made the Summer Games must-see TV.

Everybody knows Kobe. Everybody has an opinion about Kobe. The very sight of him elicits strong emotion, and his very presence on the court in Beijing will boost ratings. In the past, the thought of waking up at 4:00 in the morning to watch my country's basketball team struggle to win against ever-improving competition while playing a brand of basketball neither I nor them were familiar with didn't appeal to me.

But by simply slipping on his red, white, and blue no. 10 jersey, Kobe will make everything seem more important. He's famous like that.

As a basketball writer, the Kobe article is the easiest one to write. It's easy for me to fill up this space when I write about Kobe. There never seems to be a dull moment with him, and with any Kobe story, there are so many different angles from which to approach that I could probably go on forever, or until I just decided to stop. Is any athlete involved in more situations and controversies, on a consistent basis, than Kobe? Is there anybody who's more complex? Is there any athlete that has more star power? Tiger, maybe. He's the sole reason people watch golf. But he comes nowhere close to riling up the public like Kobe does. Our fascination with Tiger comes from how unbelievably great he is. He's the real new MJ. With Kobe, our obsession goes much deeper, because wheter we want to admit it or not, we can all identify with him. He's human and we can all see it. Like Tupac, there's a little bit of Kobe in all of us.

The Dream Team has a chance to take back our gold. Kobe will be playing. Where do I sign up?

1 comment:

Walton's Wisdom said...

Good stuff. I just found your blog, and spent the last half hour sifting through your posts.

You're right about Kobe -- easiest athlete to write about. Check out my Kobe vs. Michael analysis if you get a chance:

Keep up the good work!