For The Sake Of All Lakerland: Please Trade Kobe

By Dr. Anthony Asadullah Samad, PhD
Updated: June 21, 2007

LOS ANGELES — Each year, I write at least one column on one of my few passions, sports. Particularly, the politics of sports. I’ll have to write at least two this year, one will be when Barry breaks Aaron’s home run record and all the haters come out of the shadows. The other one is this one, pleading with Los Angeles Lakers owner, Jerry Buss, to trade his so-called “franchise player,” Kobe Bryant.

Let’s get all the biases out of the way upfront — I am a lifelong Laker fan. I’ve been rooting for the Lakers (and the baseball Giants) since I was seven years old. I know Laker history, through and through. I cried through the many championship defeat years of the 60s and 70s (against the Celtics and the Knicks). I exalted in their first L.A. championship in 1972, as well as the Showtime I and II eras of the 80s and 2000s.

But the past couple of years has been tough to be a Laker fan. To see a championship-caliber team fall apart in the matter of two years has been just painful. Runaway egos (Buss, Phil Jackson, Shaq and Kobe) tore the team apart. They’ve tried to pull all the pieces back together without Shaq, and since Buss declared the Lakers were “Kobe’s team,” it hasn’t been pretty at all.

In fact, if it hasn’t been already declared, I’d like to official declare the “Kobe’s team” era a failure, largely because in the last two years, the team stunk so bad that even Kobe has threaten to leave it. Granted, he hasn’t had much to play with — and Mitch Kupchak should be fired for hesitating on more trade deals than somebody’s granny at an intersection trying to cross a busy street — but if it’s your team, you need to be in it to win it. Not Kobe Bryant. The threats have already started. Kobe threatens to leave every year and he’s at it again. So let him go. Trade him.

The problem with the Lakers is that Kobe thinks he is the team, not on a team. The Lakers haven’t perfected team ball the past two years because every time they get into trouble, Phil defaults to “Kobe-ball” and you have to watch Kobe jack up all kind of crazy shots, 30 or 40 of ‘em, just to watch them fold in the last five minutes of every game.

If I want to watch someone play by themselves, I’ll watch Tiger (golf), or Venus and Serena (tennis), or the Golden Boy versus the Pretty Boy (boxing). My point is, there are plenty of individual sports out there to watch. Basketball ain’t one of them. If Kobe plays team ball, he can help the Lakers win. But that doesn’t happen very often. The best team ball we saw in Los Angeles this year was watching the Clippers, and they had half the talent the Lakers have. That’s hard for a Laker fan to admit, but it’s the truth.

Somebody needs to tell Kobe he’s not Michael Jordan and can’t take over every game just because the team falls behind. The team has to make the comeback. Everybody on the Laker team this year was scared to tell Kobe to give up the ball. He might be a league favorite, and even some fans’ favorite but he’s not the team player’s favorite and he’s not my favorite.

I was hecka mad over the Shaq trade, and pissed over the Kobe rape allegation distractions the season after. But I think we’re tired of waiting for Kobe to grow up. We want to see winning basketball again. Almost all the key players of the Lakers’ recent championship teams have been back to the finals. Robert Horry has won two championships since he left the Lakers. Shaq and Gary Payton, one. Even Derek Fisher almost made the finals this year. Where was Kobe’s team? You get my drift.

Kobe wouldn’t even get into my “fav five” of all-time Laker players. Elgin Baylor, who had more moves than Kobe and Michael Jordan (but not Julius Erving), is my all-time favorite Laker. Magic Johnson is my second all-time favorite, followed by Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jerry West.

In fact, Kobe wouldn’t even get into my second favorite five, James Worthy, Shaquille O’Neal, Michael Cooper, Robert Horry and Connie Hawkins (one of my all-time favorites who played his last years with the Lakers, I know — I’m biased). I wouldn’t consider myself a “Kobe-hater” but all the other players were talented and team players. And they were loyal.

Kobe is talented but disloyal and loyalty is a two-way street. Just because you have a hard season, a losing season is no reason to blame everyone but yourself. Whatever happened to, “We’ll get ‘em next year,” or “We have some work to do but thanks to the fans, while we work to improve for next year.” Not Kobe. It’s always a whine that he can’t do it by himself. When he didn’t have to do it by himself, he couldn’t get along with the league’s most dominate player.

No telling what would happen if the league’s second most dominate player, Kevin Garnett, comes in and tries to get Kobe to “pass the damn ball.” I’d rather just see Lamar Odom (who is a great team player) with the handcuffs off, throw the ball to Garnett. We’re tired of Kobe pouting when he doesn’t get his “touches”, his not shooting, to prove his team can’t win without him, or his busting teammates in the chops in the press, or never knowing when he’s going to shoot us out of a game.

There’s no mustard off the hot dog like the mustard off a Kobe hot dog. Maybe some other team might want to try it. I know we’ve had our fill. For the sake of Laker fans everywhere, please spare us another season of this madness.

If Kobe doesn’t want to play in L.A., fine. We could do with a few less 50-point (in 40 shots) games, and a few more wins and championships. So, trade him so that the Lakers can truly rebuild, and all will be well in Lakerland next season.