Kobe Bryant Sticks Up For LeBron James
If you’ve followed his career, then you already know that Kobe Bryant has endured his fair share of criticism over the years. When he first came into the league, he was criticized for being too immature. When he finally started to come into his own, he was criticized for not being a model teammate to Shaquille O’Neal. When he got caught up in a rape allegation, he was criticized for abusing his power as a professional athlete. And, most recently, he’s been criticized for not finding a way to lead his Los Angeles Lakers back to the NBA Finals. Along every step of his journey from NBA rookie to NBA superstar, KB24 has been criticized.
So it’s safe to say that he knows what LeBron James is going through right now. As he gets ready to embark on his ninth season in the NBA, LBJ is getting thrown to the wolves on a regular basis as he tries to help Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh turn Miami into a title town again. No matter how well he plays or how much he does for the Miami Heat, he’s been facing a constant stream of criticism ever since delivering The Decision last summer and left the Cleveland Cavaliers in his rear-view mirror. It’s a stream of criticism that, according to Bryant, needs to stop. And he said as much recently to a reporter from the Sun-Sentinel.
“I think people need to lay off that kid, that’s what I think,” Bryant said when asked about the criticism King James receives. “I’ve gotten to know him pretty well, playing with the Olympic team, and I think they just need to back off him and just let him play and let him live his life and let him make his decision and let him mature as a player.”
He didn’t stop there, either. Bryant also called out the media for playing a large role in encouraging all of the criticism. “It’s tough to be under a microscope like that all the time,” he said. “So, I would like everybody to just back off of him and just let him play.”
Back off. It’s an interesting choice of words from Bryant, who generally steers clear of commenting on other players. It’s also a little bit odd to hear Bryant talk about LeBron favorably when he publicly took some shots at the Heat last season. But if we’re being honest with ourselves here, doesn’t Bryant have a good point here?
We—and I include myself in the collective—have been incredibly hard on LeBron since he joined the Heat. Everything that he does—from “choking” in the fourth quarter of several games during the NBA Finals to dunking a basketball on a young kid during a game of knockout at a summer basketball camp—gets put under a microscope and overanalyzed. Much like Bryant a few years ago, James has a target on his back and it seems that people aren’t satisfied with the media if a story comes out that even hints that James might be doing something positive with himself and his career.
At the same time, James has brought this criticism on through his actions. And he’s not the first big-name superstar to do it. In fact, Bryant knows exactly what it’s like to be in Bron-Bron’s shoes, because he took plenty of heat for running Shaq out of Los Angeles a few years back. People told him he couldn’t win a title without him and found every reason to take shots at Bryant while he was down. It’s kind of a right of passage for many legends in the world of sports. They start out beloved, they accumulate a bunch of haters, they eventually prove them wrong, and then everyone has to agree that they’re great at what they do regardless of how they feel about them personally. It’s the way legends are born.
It’s what LeBron needs to do to get rid of his critics. He needs to silence them by winning a title—just one title will do for now—and showing them that he knew what he was doing when he came to Miami. But until that happens, he can expect to continue to get criticized. And while it’s nice to see one of his fellow players sticking up for him, it’s not going to stop until he makes it stop. Just ask Kobe Bryant.