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Ted Green: NBA Finals aren't about Kobe's Q rating

June 4, 2009 |  5:59 pm

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I have been reading with both amusement and puzzlement this business about Kobe Bryant being liked. Or loved, worshiped and adored. The question they raise: Why isn't he warmer and more embraceable? The thinking seems to be: If only he smiled more, didn't glare, didn't scowl, if he would just give longer and funnier answers to media questions, then we as a city could really embrace the Lakers star and place him on the very highest pedestal.

To this need for hero nirvana, I say: Please, get over yourself already.

This isn't about Kobe's Q rating. It's not a popularity contest. I didn't care for John Lennon, but I still have every Beatles album.

For the next 10 days to two weeks on what is his own personal mission, Kobe Bryant will be trying to win an NBA title. Because it would represent his first championship as the leader of the Lakers rather than Shaquille O'Neal's young 20-something sidekick, this is nothing less than a career-defining moment in Kobe's professional life.

In fact, it is the defining moment and he knows it, and the pressure is immense.  Which is why he's as serious as a heart attack and almost as deadly. It's why his legendary focus has never been more laser-like. And it's why he's too obsessed with the challenge ahead to be bothered with the mundanities of making the media happy with long, carefully articulated answers and pithy, snappy replies.

If the quote and sound-bite crowd is dissatisfied, how high do you think THAT should be on the priority list at the NBA Finals?

I've always wondered why those who get paid to critique athletes and entertainers never seem to be fully satisfied by the performances alone; many critics seem to have an almost pathological need to like or even love the star they're critiquing.

Take, for example, all the divas and prima donnas getting $10 million or even $20 million to shoot one movie. Are all these men and women warm and nice? Or are many of them royal pains who engage the press with humor and grace only right before their films are being released and only because their studios and publicists tell them they have to? Hey, even if they're jerks, we still plunk down 11 bucks to watch them act anyway.

So why hold Kobe to a different or higher standard? And I don't think he's a jerk at all; at this point in the exercise, he's just about business.

Me, I'm as clinical as a surgeon and as detached as Kobe when it comes to these subjective evaluations. I like Kobe Bryant because he's a crazy baller with mad, mad skills. For me, that's always been more than enough. It's not that much of a reach to say that when it comes to personality, I don't really care if he is St. Francis of Assisi or a closet serial killer.

If I want thoughtfulness, I'll listen to a speech by President Obama. If I want to laugh, I'll watch Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart. And if I want to watch a locked-in NBA superstar on a personal quest that borders on the spiritual, I'll watch Kobe Bryant in the NBA Finals, fascinated to see whether he gets what he wants, but not caring one iota whether he entertains us before, after and between games.

Green formerly covered the Lakers for the L.A. Times. He is currently senior sports producer for KTLA Prime News

Photo: Kobe Bryant and the Lakers gather around Coach Phil Jackson during a practice before the start of the NBA Finals. Credit: Robert Gauthier

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