“He is arguably the greatest player in the history of the Lakers’ franchise. He is also destroying it from within.”
It is simple. It is to the point. It is wrong.
On Monday, ESPN published an article online from writer Henry Abbott, who takes aim at Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant for being the sole reason the franchise has fallen off the last few seasons.
Let me be clear, when I say wrong, I do not mean the article is full of baseless information. In fact, there are stories in it that would not surprise me to be true. More times than not, Kobe has not exactly been the ideal teammate that players gravitate to nor will he ever pretend to lower expectations for his teammates causing tension along the way. This has been the narrative attributed to Kobe over his entire career. It is nothing new.
Where Abbott is wrong is letting his feelings towards Kobe get in the way of his job as journalist and writer. Instead his personal vendetta turned his opinion article into an unnecessary hack job of one man’s character.
I am not exactly sure when or where Abbott’s animosity towards Kobe began, but it is no secret Abbott is not a Lakers/Kobe guy and it is safe to assume the two do not exchange greeting cards during the holidays. Abbott has written many pieces over the past few years criticizing the shooting guard and it seems to only get more frequent with every passing season. Again, this is nothing new.
The main issue with Abbott’s article is it is completely one-sided. He knew exactly what direction he wanted to go in and used as much negative, second-hand information in his story to add “credibility” to his opinion. I am not sure what happened to the days of credible sources in journalism and it is clear Abbott is not sure either.
Here is a list of Abbott’s sources of information: “Rival GM”, “One long-time agent”, “Another agent with Lakers clients”, “An agent with numerous stars”, “An agent who once had a FA decline a Lakers offer”, “Front office executive from a rival team who knows everyone involved”, “Sources told ESPN Insider Chris Broussard”, “One Lakers source”, “One source in the Lakers circle”, “Source”, “Source with knowledge of the negotiations”, “One rival front office executive”, “Another NBA executive”, “Source close to Lakers decision makers”, “Sources”, and finally a “Lakers insider”.
Abbott’s attempt at bringing up different situations to tear down Kobe is weak at best. There are many different sides of a story and Abbott was motivated to find the side that went against Kobe, while ignoring every other side out there, even if it was reported by the network he is associated with.
It would not be any fun for him if he had to report a positive story Kobe. Kobe is arguably the most unpopular popular player in sports history and as a result a negative story on him will garner more clicks to meet that monthly quota.
Let’s take a look at some of the examples Abbott lays out in his article and put them up to the source test:
Dwight Howard leaving Lakers because of Kobe? Or was Howard upset at how he was treated in LA and wanted to be the man immediately?
To start off, let’s play the unnamed source game: “According to sources with knowledge of the situation, part of the discussion between Howard and Kupchak centered around Howard’s frustration with D’Antoni — particularly how the center felt marginalized as the coach looked to Bryant and Steve Nash for leadership and suggestions and discounted Howard’s voice.” - Dave McMenamin, ESPN
Now let’s go with named sources…
Steve Nash: “Dwight had some issues with the season,” Nash said. “I think it kind of basically goes with what he said to the media that he never quite felt embraced in L.A. He never quite felt supported. That’s basically it.” - Dave McMenamin, ESPN
Phil Jackson: And Kobe made a moving speech during the pitch, promising to teach Dwight the secret of winning championships that he’d learned from the best in the game.
If the meeting had ended there, it might have worked. But after the presentation, Dwight asked Kobe what he was planning to do after he recovered from his Achilles injury. Was this going to be his last year? “No,” replied Kobe. “I’m planning to be around for three or four more years.”
At that point, according to others in the room, Dwight’s eyes went blank and he drifted away. In his mind, the game was over. - New York Daily News
Dwight Howard himself: “A lot of people say, ‘Well, if you would’ve waited a couple years, then this could’ve been yours (with the Lakers),’ And I’m like, ‘In a couple years, I’m 30,’” Howard said. “I don’t want to wait. I’ve been in the league 10 years. I don’t want to wait for things to happen. I want to be aggressive, to make things happen. And I’m looking at all these young guys who are just ready, and they’re missing one piece. And I’m like, ‘I could be that piece, and I don’t want to miss my chance.” – Sam Amick, USA Today
How about Ramon Sessions leaving the Lakers because of Kobe?
“Sessions has been somewhat evasive as to why, but he has been quoted as saying it was “definitely different” playing with Bryant. Internally, the Lakers were rattled by his departure and came to believe that Kobe was the key. It meant little as a transaction but everything as a sign of how players with options view this team.” – Abbott
Ramon Sessions in 2012, on why he left the Lakers: “It was one of those situations I looked at like, ‘If I do come back what if they trade me?’ ” Sessions said. “There were talks about getting Deron. They always wanted the bigger-named guy. What if I get traded to a team and it’s my contract year? It was one of those things that I can’t say if I opted in, [Nash] wouldn’t have come. They still might have tried to get him. You just never know.” - Yahoo! Sports
Paul George staying with Indiana because of Kobe?
“Paul George, Angelino through and through, had once been the team’s safest choice. But sources say one reason the two-way star had re-signed with the Pacers in the fall of 2013 instead was that he was turned off by the thought that Bryant would police his efforts.” – Abbott
Paul George response on Twitter:
Kobe must be so influential to the point that a player from another team, who in fact idolized Kobe growing up, evening wearing his number in college and in the NBA, was scared off by playing with him that he was forced to sign a 5-year, $91.57M contract.
And finally Jim Buss, who apparently hates Kobe in a Lakers uniform:
The view in the Lakers’ front office is that any real rebuild will have to wait until after Bryant’s retirement. “This has finally come home,” says a Lakers insider. “Major players don’t want to play with Kobe, and Jimmy is waiting for him to leave. – Abbott
Buss really wanted to Kobe to leave to the point where he gave the veteran a 2-year, $48.5M extension as he recovered from an Achilles heel injury that sometimes ends the careers of athletes. The logical thing would have been for Buss to tell Kobe they were moving forward with the future if he really wanted him to leave. The injury gave him the perfect opportunity to get rid of Kobe. Then again, that is the logical thing to do.
Now I understand unnamed sources are what drives sports stories and the media, but Kobe has been in the league 19 years and you’re telling me Abbott was unable to reach out to any of his ex-teammates? You know players that actually PLAYED with him. Why not ask Pau Gasol why it was so difficult to leave LA for Chicago this past summer? What about Derek Fisher? Rick Fox? Lamar Odom? How about current teammates like Steve Nash?
Or what about Shaquille O’Neal who has been completely open about his relationship with Kobe in the past? Much was made about Kobe running the center out of LA but even Shaq was candid in his reasons:
“It was a money situation, I was getting older,” he continued. “They wanted me to take less money. I wasn’t going to do that, so they traded me to Miami.”
On his relationship with Kobe on the court:
“We didn’t have a bad relationship, because we won three out of four championships,” O’Neal said. “That’s not a bad relationship at all.”
While Abbott was tracking down his anonymous sources, it is hard to believe he could not contact players that would be willing to go on record for his article. Whether the opinion of those teammates would be good or bad, it would provide the piece with far more credibility. In addition, some of the sources were that of rival teams and agents, who have much to gain from trashing Kobe for individual, client, and franchise gain. As for “sources” inside the Lakers organization, it would be surprising to see if these sources are in fact as close to the situation as portrayed by Abbott.
Is Kobe going to win the award for best teammate? No. Is Kobe difficult to play with? He is. Does Kobe demand the same type of passion and commitment from teammates that he demands from himself? You bet. Certain players can play with Kobe, some cannot and that is what it comes down to.
When it comes to the big name free agents, let’s not ignore the fact the Lakers are consistently over the salary cap and this past off-season was the first time since the 90’s the team had a chance to add large contracts. LeBron James was always going back home to Cleveland and while Carmelo Anthony was intrigued by the Lakers, it was difficult for him to say no to Phil Jackson and $124M. Don’t see how Kobe played a part in either of those situations.
The Lakers being at the bottom of the league at the moment is not about one player. It is about a wide-array of things that Abbott fails to mention.
After the league vetoed the Lakers acquisition of Chris Paul, that can be seen as a good starting point as to when the purple and gold empire began to fall. A Paul trade would have been a precursor to another move that would have brought together Kobe, Paul, and Howard to form one of the more intriguing threesomes in NBA history. It was a typical Lakers plan that would have resulted in yet another dynasty… but it did not happen for “basketball reasons”.
That is no Lakers bias either from my end, it’s a shared sentiment from other reporters such as Eric Pincus:
Instead the Lakers went to plan B, which included trading an unhappy Lamar Odom for a draft pick, sending a bunch of draft picks to the Suns for Steve Nash and still being able to bring Howard in from the Magic.
From there, coaching issues with Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni, terrible luck on the injury front, and lack of resources to trade for players (you know the thing the Lakers always have done to bring in talent, not in free agency) to compete in the Western Conference, have all played more of a role to the decline of the Lakers than Kobe has.
To place the blame on one player for the fall of a franchise is irresponsible. It is even more irresponsible to try and pass off an article as “opinion” with “facts” while your sources all hide behind anonymity.
While Abbott can attempt to blame Kobe for the fall of the Lakers, this is a prime example of a problem within media today. More than that, this piece just goes on to further the fall of respectable, honest journalism.