I became a Kobe Bryant fan with 0.7 seconds remaining in Game 4 of the 2006 NBA Playoffs.
Phoenix Suns fans will surely remember that as the game where Steve Nash was the victim of two terrible non-calls. Lakers fans, on the other hand, will just remember that day as another in a long line of Kobe’s triumphs. But for me, those final 6 seconds of regulation were a Damascus moment.
Like many people, I was staunchly anti-Kobe when he entered the league. I’ve never been able to fully ascertain the exact reasons for these feelings but I’m sure they stem primarily from the overzealous Michael Jordan worship that Kobe displayed during his first few years in the NBA. It was impossible to ignore back then. From the way he carried himself on the court, to the tactics he employed, even the sound of his voice were all a part of Kobe’s near imitation of his (and my) idol, Michael Jordan. And while it was probably unfair to an 18-year-old, I’m positive that I’m not the only one who was taken aback by this, so much so that I disliked Kobe as a player.
However, lest we forget, Kobe was complicit in his creation of an unlikable player. The selfishness, the Colorado incident, and the feud with Shaq are all blemishes that Kobe brought upon himself. Whether these resulted as a case of egotistic behavior or something else, Kobe single-handedly was responsible for the image he created. Though he apparently wanted to be liked (or even loved), Kobe seemed oblivious to the persona he had generated. A commercial at the time that showed Kobe training while an overdub stated a list of reasons that people hated him and ended with Kobe saying you can love him for the same reasons further illustrated the chasm between what Kobe thought he was portraying and what he really was. We didn’t hate Kobe because he won titles or had a perfect jumper; we hated him because he was trying to be our savior.