Why the W.N.B.A. Loved Kobe Bryant

Jan 27, 2020 · 41 comments
Just So (Sacramento)
Professional sports is hugely overrated and over-subscribed. Vestiges of the bountiful human mind exist but are quickly fading in this time of near-instant everything enabled by digital techologies. Literature, manifold arts, history, the sciences, education are but a few of the "life of the mind" that shadow "sports". This is not to say " sports" as physical activity do not have a place on our lives; most certainly they do as individual fitness and health. However the death of a highly regarded, and highly compensated, professional athlete should not cause great and wide-spread grief. There are far richer indulgences available to occupy the mind -- it only takes initiative and the drive of discovery to obtain such richness.
Gerry (west of the rockies)
another wnba player demanding respect and higher compensation. those things are earned. it took the nba years to earn the level of popularity it's achieved. the wnba would collapse with the prop of the nba's financial support.
Gerry (west of the rockies)
@Gerry sorry all - that should have been "the wnba would collapse WITHOUT the prop of the nba's financial support."
Portland Dan (Portland, Oregon)
It is good to hear from women about their beliefs and experiences of rape by important, wealthy, celebrities. It is important to have a variety of perspectives that inform our own lives, our own daughters, our own ways of making sense of the amazing privilege that wealth and celebrity brings. Who among us has the wealth that greases the pathway to overcome rape? We raised our daughter and son to look critically at media. One game we played: turn off the teevee sound, and quickly, tell us what they're selling. It was a small nod toward their learning how to deconstruct the signals, the apologies, the elisions that accompany the wealthy at every turn. Our kids are very adept at reading the signals, memes, ads for what's being sold, to whom, and at what cost to the rest of us. I only wish the Times had the same upbringing.
KT (New York, NY)
I would suggest that celebrating an accused rapist as an important part of a fan base may not send the most helpful message to young women aspiring to become athletes.
Ben (Florida)
I get why Lakers fans are so upset. I understand why they worshipped Kobe and forgave him his faults. But I don’t understand at all the fake grief from anyone else. I find it hypocritical. I love basketball. I hate the Lakers. I hated Kobe. Everybody dies. Death doesn’t make someone better or worse in my mind. I still hate Kobe. I didn’t want him to die. Accidents are terrible. His 13 year old daughter is especially sad. But I still hate Kobe.
Charlotte (Los Angeles)
Bravo!! Well said! Hopefully others will pick up where he left off and champion and support women in sports.
Danny Boy (Lakewood, CA)
Truly, what a great piece! And I really appreciated how the author didn't try to sugar coat the big negative of Kobe's life (the possible attempted rape/assault). She doesn't know how to reconcile it and that is fine. Most of us are complex, and while hopefully none of us assaults anyone (and hopefully Kobe didn't either), the reality is that for most of us, our life will me made up of (hopefully many) good things we have done and (hopefully much fewer) bad things we have done. May the good outweigh the bad, and if you have done bad in the past, try to do good to make up for it. And I think if you look at Kobe's life in the last 5 years especially, I think he has done some real good, as pointed to in the article!
That's What She Said (The West)
Youth is fraught with sloppy, stupid mistakes. Laura Bush accidentally killed someone driving in her youth, it will not define her legacy and neither should Kobe's mistake define his. It's where you end up, not where you start out that matters. He was a devoted father and husband. He didn't dwell on his celebrity, he knew his family was first.
Mary Elizabeth Lease (Eastern Oregon)
The NBA loved Kobe because he sold tickets and merchandise.
Sage (local)
Plus he had four daughters, plus he believed in 'girls matter', plus he became a great girls' coach.
Shaun Narine (Fredericton, Canada)
I have no interest in basketball, so I have no views on Mr. Bryant as a person. What I do find interesting is that a Washington Post reporter was suspended for retweeting a link to an article about Bryant's "nonconsensual" sexual encounter with a hotel employee many years ago. From what I can tell, the reporter was suspended because she had the bad judgment to tell an uncomfortable truth about Mr. Bryant at a time when many people did not want to hear it. Put bluntly, in the "post-Weinstein" era, it's unlikely Bryant could have gotten away with his actions against the hotel employee as easily as he did at the time. But, of course, the reaction to the reporter raises an uncomfortable possibility: perhaps this is not as much a "post-Weinstein" era as we like to believe.
That's What She Said (The West)
Kobe touched so many, many people. If his family would permit. a televised Memorial would be nice. At the Staples/Kobe Bryant Center would be appropriate.
Sandor C. (Los Angeles)
This is an incredible take, Talia. Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom.
KL (Smoky Mountains)
Great read and great last line, thank you!
dad (or)
Every game is as mental game. Kobe brought everything to the court. We could only wish that we brought everything to courts in which we live. Kobe's game transcended boundaries. We can only wish to appropriate his tenacity. He is the pinnnacle in sportsmanship. Kobe Is Legend. RIP
Richard Trotta (Jupiter, FL)
The narrative arc of this article concludes that the love of sport at the professional level ends in with the validation of how much money should be earned from the love.
Ramon.Reiser (Seattle / Myrtle Beach)
An immature high school boy chose to think and practice and endure. Apparently he was not much of one to take a NO. And then he had daughter after daughter and chose to live and accept and to lovingly care daughters and then grown women apparently in time without chasing them. And he wrote and edited and became an artist and one fine father. For that I admire so very much. I hope his wife and other daughters will have their opportunities that he will no longer be able to directly help. I hope there is also a heaven that he can assist from. If his daughters talk to him when they need him and his advice and live, they will likely fine that his voice and values will always be there for them.
Blackmamba (Il)
What Kobe Bryant did consistently and quietly off the court is part of what made his life more meaningful. Coming out of high school as a teeager to the NBA from a two- parent family he led a relatively charmed personal life while black African American male. But entertainment and sports has always been part of black opportunity in America. And black athletes are expected to be grateful, invisible and silent when it comes to political and socioeconomic issues. Most go along with that program.
Ben (Florida)
You’re right about the expectations of black athletes among some people. But my favorite athlete of all time is Muhammad Ali. He paid a real price for his beliefs.
Groovygeek (CA)
Alas most of what I knew about Kobe revolved around a $4M ring, a legal settlement of questionable circumstances, and a brash oncourt behavior. The recent events made me browse through his IG feed. Oh my, did this former "punk" grow. His affection for his family and young women in general is unmistakable. The raw authenticity of the IG feed is so atypical of the highly managed public lives of the super rich. Kinda saddened that I was unaware of it all. Bottom line is - don't pre judge people based on distant past experiences.
Blorphus (Boston, Ma)
I applaud Ms. Caldwell's idea to recognize Kobe and thank him for supporting female athletes and the WNBA. But I will also call out her anti-male bigotry, especially ironic and counter productive in a piece that in part complains about anti-female bigotry. No fair minded person would agree that all of the 'best technical' players are women as Ms. Caldwell asserts, nor would they view the height of the tallest NBA players as a crutch like she seems to, that guarantees success and dominance without effort, skill, or intelligence. Is Steph Curry only good because of innate talent alone? Does LeBron only succeed because he is big and strong? Please. They work at their craft and are the best because they are master technicians after all the work they invest. And there are plenty more less heralded players with the same work ethic and technical mastery, though perhaps less physically gifted, or as fortunate in who is their teammate.
SMcStormy (MN)
@Blorphus /At first, those with advantaged identities and cultures claimed that they were genetically superior to women and People of Color, women didn’t have the minds for business, People of Color weren't intelligent, etc. The reason why the White het men held all the wealth and power was that was what nature made. Then, when credible evidence for this view evaporated and social progress and gains in equality just started to be seen, they changed their tune. They said, yes, discrimination is bad, that is why you should never discriminate, including against those with advantaged identities. This, despite that in practice, they are otherwise still given every advantage at every turn. A single article that touts female athleticism and skill, barely critical of men, and someone posts, “hey, you shouldn’t discriminate! that’s anti-male bigotry!” White men need to make room at the table which means some of you need to stand up and give your chair to someone not male, not White, not heterosexual, etc. A fraction of society holds all the power and the wealth. That’s unfair. When 50% of leadership positions, from team lead to the boardroom, corporate to gov to academia are held by women, that’s when we can stop talking about discrimination for women. .
Mark Keller (Portland, Oregon)
The outpouring of affection towards Kobe Bryant since his death has been a revelation for me. My bad for not noticing his maturation and appreciating the amazing person he had become. Of course, he was an all-time great player; however, his initial brashness, and his trial/non trial in Colorado left me closed minded to him as a human being. What is clear to me now, is that he had become a very loving father, a generous mentor to many, many girls and women, as well as NBA players, and was a renaissance man - just to name a few of his contributions to humanity. I should not have been so judgemental. Thanks for growing, sharing, and rest in peace, Kobe Bryant.
Justanne (San Francisco, CA)
A very touching piece. Women's basketball is a joy to behold. I'm hoping that others in the NBA follow Kobe's lead and support the sport.
KirkTaylor (Southern California)
Ms Caldwell covers it perfectly. Of course it is only speculating to say how much Kobe Bryant would have helped the WNBA, but given his drive and intelligence it's hardly far-fetched to say that he would be a major factor in transforming and elevating the league. And if Gigi truly had her dad's basketball genes, the WNBA would have been even more wonderful for her presence. To think that all of that being cancelled in a few terrifying seconds is just another part of the tragedy. For the families of all the victims the loss is more directly devastating, of course, and for them too the city aches.
Heather (San Diego, CA)
I've always loved basketball for being something that one can enjoy playing by yourself--sinking shot after shot--or with any number of people short of a full team. You can't have fun with a football or a baseball alone as much as you can with a basketball. I love that basketball hoops are all over the place--hanging over garages, in dusty backyards, and in dim alleys. And what I love about Kobe's attitude is his vision of basketball as pure playful fun that anyone--not just young men who are 6 feet 6 inches tall!--can enjoy and do well. Kudos to him for supporting the W.N.B.A!
Summer Smith (Dallas, TX)
I love that he was teaching Gianna and her teammates the skills and focus that made him such a force. I love any dad being as involved in his girls’ sports as in his sons’. Most of all I love good dads who spend time and nurture their kids’ dreams no matter what they are. Like Kobe.
dad (or)
Kobe is inspiration. We should all hope to inspire humanity in the way that he did. Whenever and whoever, without restrictions. We are all human. Lest we forget.
lisa (michigan)
I love that he was such a good father to his daughters. And when people would comment to him that he needed a boy to carry on his legacy his daughter GiGi spoke up and said "I got that covered Pop". Sounds like Kobe was raising intelligent strong beautiful daughters.
L osservatore (In fair Verona, where we lay our scene)
You hardly ever hear of a professional athlete famous for actually studying his sport and coming up with new tricks to gain a competitive advantage. Yet the studious Kobe didn't even do time in college. He explored the art and physics of movement and earned trophies with his team with his efforts. Basketball is so different from most traditional sports: decent shoes and a ball get you started in basketball, so it has always been the game for poor Americans from Appalachia to Harlem. Without the helmets of football and the distance of baseball play from the fans - dozens of yards in both games - the basketball player performs her act close enough to fans to toss them the ball herself. You can actually learn from videos of Kobe's play, and I hope these videos don't end up locked away as tightly as NFL game replays have become, only to those with the bucks.
macbeth (canada)
I propose that the NBA rename its championship trophy after Kobe Bryant. Its currently the Larry Obrien trophy...someone who never played the game but was commissioner 40 years ago. Bryant's contributions to the game at home and abroad would be well recognized by this honor.
Justin Kalm (Seattle)
That might be a good idea if there weren’t the question about whether he might have committed rape. He did a lot for women’s basketball, but his record on women in general seems a lot less positive.
Tan Solo (OAKLAND)
This is an absolutely beautifully written tribute — it covers so much ground about Kobe with depth and nuance. I too saw him last week say that those women are ready to play in the NBA “now,” and I was so touched at how he was using his power to be an ally. Kudos to the author for not only being a great athlete but a great writer and analyst as well.
Susan Wells (Nevada)
@Tan Solo I was going to write a post similar to yours, so I totally agree with you. She is a great writer, as well, as she correctly wrote "...people a half-foot taller than he." I'm tired of NYT writers getting the pronouns too often incorrect.
Susan (Phoenix, AZ)
That Mr. Bryant loved the women's game as much as he did should serve as a lesson to all those haters of the WNBA out there. Who knew skill better? Who respected hard work more? Think you could beat Diana Taurasi? Kobe would've been the first to tell you how wrong you are. I grieve that his daughter never got to fulfill her dreams. And that her father never got to help her reach them fully. Such a tragedy on so many levels.
Locho (New York)
This is true. Before Kobe, no one realized that basketball required thinking. Also, before Kobe, no one in the WNBA used pump fakes or pivots or up and unders.
Susan (Phoenix, AZ)
While Kobe was certainly an example for WNBA players to emulate, there was no WNBA prior to Kobe's NBA career. So to say he changed the women's game is true only insofar as he changed EVERYONE'S game.
Groovygeek (CA)
@Locho this is completely untrue. EVERY top notch athlete is as much a thinker as a super physical specimen. This is what separates the great from the merely good. You could argue that Larry Bird, with his lack of overt athletic exceptionalism, had to rely much more on the thinking part of the game in order to excel. While it is appropriate to acknowledge both Kobe's strengths as well as his failings, lavishing this level of praise on him is unreasonable.
Ben (Florida)
Oscar Robertson didn’t think? Jerry West? Bill Russell? Kareem? Give me a break. Even Wilt, who was so far beyond everyone he played against physically, was still a very smart basketball player. He used to lead the league in assists as well as points.
Watah (Oakland, CA)
He was a great guy and I'm so sad to see his passion (his daughter) go down with the crash. What a tragedy.
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