As Philadelphia prepares the Palestra for the plethora of stars set to take the floor of the historic arena this Sunday, one can't help but to think why it's biggest homegrown star is not involved.
Kobe Bryant's turbulent relationship with the city of Philadelphia has prompted hundreds of articles, a few interviews, and one ESPN special. Although there are various theories prompting the hatred Philadelphia fans have for their transplanted brethren, none have fully justified the animosity he receives.
Some say it began in 2001 when Kobe and the Los Angeles Lakers came to Philly to wrap up the NBA Finals. Prior to the decisive Game 5, Kobe famously told Philadelphia 76ers fans, he was coming to "rip the fan's hearts out". Arrogant? Of course. Cocky? Obviously. But does trash talk warrant hatred, or does the anger stem from the fact that he came through on his promise, beating his hometown team on their home floor.
Should Kobe have felt bad for Philadelphia and dropped a game? Could you imagine if any athlete playing for a Philadelphia based team ever did the same?
But one of the most intense and focused athletes of our generation is hated for winning a championship against the team from his hometown? That makes zero sense. If anything, Kobe should be applauded for the same killer instinct this city holds so dear. For the same tough mentality that personifies Philadelphia.
If this is the reason a Philadelphia fan hates Kobe Bryant, then understand they do not represent Philadelphia. Philadelphia is a city known for its rough and tough demeanor. For Christ's sakes look at Rocky IV! You think a guy from St. Louis would train for a title fight by chopping down a tree? No way! We lift rocks and climb freakin' mountains! We don't throw a hissy fit about losing in the NBA Finals. We don't cry that Kobe was mean to us. That he hurt our feelings. Suck it up, realize his mental and physical toughness are a result of our fine city, and move on.
Another theory stems from Kobe's childhood. Some folks claim Kobe does not have enough "street cred" to represent the city of Philadelphia, since Kobe grew up splitting time between the suburbs of Philly and the Reggio Emilia province of Italy. This one can be tackled in just one paragraph.
I can tell you for a fact, Citizens Bank Park is not sold out every night with people located only in the confines of the city. Callers to our local sports talk radio stations are not calling from just a 215 area code. It doesn't matter if you are from Manayunk, Roxborough, Cherry Hill, Landsdale or Wynnewood, you all represent Philadelphia. The Philly attitude resonates throughout the city and into the suburbs. After all, I recall watching Kobe demolish quite a few of the "city kids" during his senior year of high school.
Some people hate Kobe because they feel he is arrogant. If you don't like watching arrogant people, you probably should not be watching professional sports. Every athlete is arrogant and cocky. If they were not arrogant, they would not be athletes. Having the confidence to think you can accomplish anything, is what makes these players successful.
Some despise him because of the sexual assault charges a few years back. Although the charges were dropped, he did admit to cheating on his wife. Not that I agree with the hatred, but I understand the gripe. Many athletes have been guilty of breaking laws, commandments and hearts...Few have ever reclaimed the popularity they once held. Take Michael Vick for instance. Vick, despite serving prison time for his crimes, is still despised by fans all over the country.
Hating an athlete because of a felony record is a reasonable motive--however, Kobe was never convicted of sexual assault. If you hate Kobe because of extra-marital relationships, then that is your prerogative, conversely, I don't feel this is the reason behind Philadelphia's malice towards Bryant.
Some people are upset with Kobe wearing a Los Angeles Dodgers jersey and hat during the 2009 NLCS. Upsetting as that may have been, athletes have the right to root for whomever they please. Does Kobe gain points for being a die hard Philadelphia Eagles fan? For sending a jersey to Michael Vick wishing him the best of luck? Plaxico Burress walked out of prison wearing a Phillies hat. Does that make him loathed by New Yorkers?
Kobe may not be a four for four guy, but he does have some allegiance to the Philadelphia sports world. Hating him for not getting behind the Philadelphia Phillies is again, not a legitimate grievance. Maybe the collapse of his beloved Dodgers will cause him to switch loyalties to the best team in baseball.
The fact of the matter is, Kobe Bryant is despised in this city for reasons which have no basis. Whether it is arrogance, jealousy, media driven comparisons to Michael Jordan, or any other unwarranted argument, fans need to realize the opportunity they have in front of them. You have a chance to watch and applaud one of the greatest athletes ever to call this city home. When you watch Kobe Bryant stick a dagger in the hearts of opposing fans, just know where that mindset originated from.