John Krolik of Cavalier Attitude (among other things — the man is everywhere) recently emailed me. Apparently, he considers me a “worthy adversary.” That’s right, he’s a Cavs fan (and, by extension, a LeBron fan — how could you not be when you watch that much Cleveland basketball?), and not only that, but a Cavs writer, covering the Cavs for MVN.com. And he emailed me, first to let me know he likes the site, and second to initiate further discussion on LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.
Before I go any further, I hope you won’t mind if I permit myself a prideful moment and quote to you a small portion of Krolik’s email to me that got me all choked up (not really — real men don’t cry, right Dwyane?):
That’s right, he’s on the LeBron James side of this debate. He’s a Cavs writer (though he does cover the Lakers, as well). Not only that, but he was predisposed against my site. And yet, he approves of what I’ve done here. (Sidenote: “empirical in its subjectivity” — I like that.)
How refreshing to find a Cavs fan who doesn’t feel the need to suggest that I remove myself from Kobe Bryant’s private area, but instead is reasonable enough to recognize a rational, well formulated argument. My hat is off to John Krolik.
Alright, enough about how “the enemy” approves of what I’ve tried to do here. Back to Krolik.
In his email, John proceeded to make several counterpoints to points I have made on this site, either in the articles or in the comments. He indicated that he’d like to start a discussion, and would be interested in posting our discussion on the web sites for which he works. I thought that was a great idea, but as some of you may have been aware, have been busy with family issues (which then transitioned straight into the all-important Kobe Bryant Blog Day, which I couldn’t miss). I’ve finally found the time to respond to the points John made in his email, and I’ve decided to post it here in the form of a discussion, point by point.
WARNING: Krolic had a lot to say, and obviously I’m nothing if not verbose, so this is ridiculously long. As such, I have separated it into several pages. Read at your own risk, and don’t forget to click through to the next page when you reach the end of this one.
I’ve prattled on long enough. Let’s get to my virtual conversation with John Krolik. Enjoy!
JK: For the record on [LeBron James' All-Star MVP Award]-8 more rebounds and 8 more assists is more than a little significant-simple gorilla math tells you that just the assists meant LeBron was responsible for a good 16 more points than Allen. There are games where Sasha or Fish get hot for the Lakers and end up with 15-18 points on some ridiculous percentage-Sasha’s near the top of the L in TS% right now-but Kobe’s still the guy most responsible for the win because of his all-around impact, even if he doesn’t have the greatest shooting night. More importantly, it’s the All-Star MVP. Who gives a f—?
JT: Does it matter? No. Not really. But I brought it up not because it, in and of itself, really mattered, but because it is an example of the preferential treatment LeBron receives from the League. There are other examples. The ESPN video homage to LeBron’s “youngest to 10,000 points,” while no such homage was made for Bryant’s “youngest to 20,000 points,” is one (in fact, one of the things you heard the most from the media when Bryant hit that benchmark was, “Yes, BUT…” — you know, others did it in fewer games, etc.; the same is true for James, but was hardly mentioned). The clotheslining of Wade and the elbow to Webber, which followed not long after two inadvertent elbows by Bryant, but neither of which resulted in a suspension for James, is another. While I don’t think it has any bearing on LeBron’s game whatsoever, and therefore will not criticize him for it (it is a criticism of the NBA, the media, and fans, not of James, who can’t help how people choose to view and portray him), surely you can’t deny how obvious it is that the NBA and the media are just dying to crown James and place him on his throne? The All-Star MVP issue was really just an example.
Regarding that game, I’m not in any way writing off his rebounds or assists. And I’m not writing off his overall contribution. And your points about Kobe vs. Vujacic, etc., are well made. However, what’s important to note is when those points came. When Farmar or Vujacic score 21, 24, 28, etc., that doesn’t necessarily make them the MVP of the game. However, I believe that in at least one such game, perhaps two, nearly half of Vujacic’s points came in the 4th quarter, and he was the primary scorer keeping the Lakers in (or their opponents out) of the game. In that situation, he is the MVP of that game (and only that game) — and in that case, he was in fact recognized as such.
That’s my point with Ray Allen. More efficient? Sure. Does that, itself, make him MVP? By no means. But scoring 14 of the last 18 points for the East, while the West made a HUGE push — that’s what made him the most valuable. It’s when he scored those points. It’s the fact that, at a certain point, with James’ points already tallied, the West and East were dead even. And at that point, when every possession counted, Allen almost single-handedly kept the East in the game, and eventually won it for them. That’s why he should have been MVP.
JK: From my point of view, any “disrespect” of Kobe comes not from the media but from fanatical fans who blindly call Kobe the best in the game and brush away all other possibilities.
JT: I agree with you that “fanatical fans who blindly call Kobe the best in the game and brush away all other possibilities” tend to generate a lot of the disrespect toward Kobe. Those who disagree feel the need to respond, and those discussions quickly turn into “flame wars.” But there is a great deal of it that is actually not a response to that. The mass media loves to hate Kobe. Or, at the very least, the hate him at least as much as they love him. Meanwhile, I can’t recall the last negative article I read about LeBron James. In addition, James has received the same blind devotion that Lakers fans give Bryant — but even more so, and not only from Cleveland fans. The difference is that blind devotion to LeBron doesn’t generate the same negative reaction (except from Lakers fans, of course).
I’d suggest that there’s definitely more to it than that. I’ve discussed it some in the comments here on RespectKobe.com, but I believe it’s primarily two things. First, people who weren’t ready to accept Kobe — for many of whom it was because they couldn’t accept that anyone had the potential to be as great as MJ — felt a need to dismiss him. It was there, I think, that Kobe hating started, and it was their vocal criticism that has spread and caught on — despte the fact that many of the criticisms are, in fact, false.
The other kind of Kobe hater is the fan of another great player. I’ve mentioned in the comments on my site that it’s natural for a fan to get excited when they see one of their own becoming one of the greats. The natural reaction is to want that to happen now (despite the fact that it’s usually a journey that can take years), and they want every one else to recognize it. This is natural; I’ve certainly been there before, when I was younger. This, I believe, is why Heat fans have been so anti-Kobe in the past couple years, and why Cavs fans are now so anti-Kobe. Kobe is what stands in the way of their favorite player being recognized as the game’s best. Therefore, if they can discredit him and dethrone him, it will be wide open for their favorite player to step in and be recognized as the best. Again, this is only natural, and I understand it. However, this is also a major source of the “disrespect” Kobe receives.
I’m willing to meet in the middle, and agree that Lakers/Kobe fans and the various “Kobe haters” (be they MJ fans, D-Wade fans, LBJ fans, Kings fans, etc.) contribute equally to the widespread “hating” of Kobe Bryant on the internet, in sports bars, etc.. Lakers/Kobe fans’ passion, expressed in unsubstantiated, sweeping generalizations and sometimes causing them to “hate on” other players, propels the “Kobe haters” to become more vocal. “Kobe haters,” on the other hand, cause Lakers/Kobe fans to become more vocal. It’s a vicious cycle. However, I’d suggest that, at this point at least, it is a cycle from which players like Jordan, Wade, and James have been spared, and Bryant has not.
Click below for the next page, where Krolik and I further discuss the MVP race, and more.