L.A. Confidential

By Eric D. Graham
Updated: May 31, 2008

NORTH CAROLINA — There is an old cliche that says “They will praise you and crucify you with the same tongue.” Presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama knows exactly what I am talking about.

His political campaign slogan simple states “Change we can believe in”.

But has the No. 8, they love to hate (Kobe Bryant) really made a change. And isn’t it believable? Yes. He changed his jersey number from 8 to 24 but has he changed his “so-called” destructive attitude.

When this year started, Kobe wanted out of LA. He, in fact, demanded to be traded!! But can you imagine, no Kobe Bryant in L.A.? Jack Nicholson would have probably ended up in the “Cuckoo’s Nest” if that happened.

Due to the Bryant brouhaha, basketball analytics and sports writers around the country sarcastically screamed in unison that his arrogant attitude and refusal to share the basketball is and was the Lakers’ Achilles heel and would lead to Lakers potential downfall.

Nostalgic naysayers even insisted that comparing Kobe Bryant to Michael Jordan was equivalent to basketball blasphemy. Many considered Kobe the “cantankerous cancer of California” after his lackadaisical playoff performance against the Phoenix Suns last season in which Bryant seemed to stop shooting in the fourth quarter.

“Michael Jordan would have never done anything like that” complained a Jordan fanatic. “Kobe can’t win without Shaq..” explained another self-proclaimed basketball expert.

After a disappointing 42-40 record in the 2006-07 season, some Laker fans felt Jerry Buss should have kept the aging Shaquille O’Neal and let Kobe go to jail in handcuffs.

Oddly, this was the attitude of many “non-believers” before Bryant led the Lakers to their 29th NBA finals appearance after scoring 39 points in a 17-point comeback win over the San Antonio Spurs this past Thursday.

And just like “Magic” with a smile on his face, Kobe seemed to have won back his fans. Now, the crowd cheered his name while holding up banners and wearing bright yellow tee-shirts stating: “OUR TEAM, OUR MVP!!

One overzealous Laker fan even had the “audacity” to hold up a sign requesting Kobe run for President. Wait until Sean Hannity of Fox News Channel hears about this?

So after all the hoopla, maybe, Senator Obama is right. We all need Change we can believe in.

In M.Scott Peck’s book The Different Drum, he states: “It is not easy for us to change but it is possible and it is our glory as human beings.” So has Kobe really changed or has the people around him changed because he is winning?

Did the Zen master, head coach Phil Jackson, neutralize Kobe’s ego with some mystical magic?

Because after 12 years of showcasing his basketball supremacy, Bryant finally named league’s Most Valuable Player in which on receiving his award he referred to his teammates as his “brothers”

Say what?

Kobe Bryant once crucified; now resurrected also has the opportunity to win a NBA championship along with his MVP trophy as well as a gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

In closing, I’m sorry to inform all those Jordan lovers and Kobe “haters” that Michael is the only player to accomplish this unbelievable feat. Kobe will be the next.

“Winning silences all critics!!