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An Open Letter To Kobe Bryant
An Open Letter To Kobe Bryant
By Shaka Berry
Special to BASN
WASHINGTON, D.C. :
Despite your many on court feats and your obvious first ballot hall of fame credentials, I’ve never been much of a fan of yours. I cannot and will not ever question your competitive spirit or your quest to be the best Michael Jordan since Michael Jordan. You’ve succeeded for the most part in actualizing every kids’ wildest dream of being like Mike (for better and worst) and to that I tip my hat. I’d also like to congratulate you on reaching another
milestone Mikestone in your quest to be the greatest clone ever. You finally eclipsed Michael Jeffery Jordan in one of the areas that he was most proficient at as both an NBA player and an executive–ignoring the plight of your biggest fans and supporters.
Way back in 1990 when MJ was just starting his reign as the best player in the game a black mayor from Charlotte named Harvey Gantt asked Michael Jordan for an endorsement as he challenged the incumbent US Senator and longtime segregationist (and rabidly racist) Jesse Helms. Michael Jordan’s response was “Republicans buy shoes too”. In other words he said “hell no nigga!” He displayed a remarkable level of obtuseness as it pertained to using his celebrity for the greater good of those that helped make him the legend that he remains today.
Fast forward to 2014 and the New Yorker interview where you were asked your thoughts on the homage paid to the memory of Trayvon Martin by the Miami Heat. I could almost hear the silent WWJD (what would Jordan do) self query prefacing your very in-artful and even less conscious retort. Sadly even MJ would have been able to side step that tough but answerable question with much less consternation and controversy. You may not ever get that 6th ring or come close to equaling MJ’s six MVP’s but as far as being an out of touch super star athlete devoid of empathy, you are the all time greatest–MJ ain’t got nothing on you.
Since you seem rather oblivious about the gravity of the situation and your statements regarding it, and you are unable to decipher the facts (a whole two years later) I’m going to be a good sport and break down just how badly you played yourself and damaged your legacy–at least among conscious basketball fans.
Let’s first start with your last statement/tweet as it pertains to this issue.
Travon Martin was wronged THATS my opinion and thats what I believe the FACTS showed. The system did not work #myopinion #tweetURthoughts
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) March 27, 2014
That tweet obviously indicates that you’re not a total moron and you do get the fact that a grave injustice was dealt. Why then was your answer to the question of what you thought about the Heats hoodie gesture the following:
“I won’t react to something just because I’m supposed to, just because I’m African-American. That argument doesn’t make any sense to me. So we want to advance as a society and as a culture, but, say, if something happens to an African-American, we immediately come to his defense? Yet you want to talk about how far we’ve progressed as a society? Well, if we’ve progressed as a society, then you don’t jump to somebody’s defense just because they’re African-American. You sit and listen to the facts just like you would in any other situation, right? So I won’t assert myself.” ~ Kobe Bryant
Trayvon Martin was not simply some a black kid. You have/had far more in common with Tracy Martin & Sabryna Fulton’s dearly departed 17 year old son than you care to admit. Trayvon Martin was the same age as you were when you were drafted out of Lower Marion High school in 1996. The fact that some citizen (not cop) racially profiled him before gunning him down at such a tender and time stamped age should be enough for you to at least feel some measure of empathy with those from the Heat that thought it prudent to honor the kid. Then there is the fact that this kid was actually making that run to 7/11 for Skittles and ice tea so he could get back in time to see you break Michael Jordan’s NBA All-Star scoring record which you did in a spectacular 27 point performance.
One that Trayvon tragically missed because he was busy being stalked and murdered by a boy named George. Trayvon’s body remained a John Doe despite having ID and a cellphone with the information of his next of kin readily accessible. They also tested his dead corpse for drugs while at the same time handing his murderer his weapon back– no arrest, no drug test and a seeming ambivalence towards any kind of justice for the victim. The authorities actually treated the suspect as the victim. And to this day the suspect claims to be the victim. Those were the FACTS that the Miami Heat and everyone else in the country were operating off of Mr. Bryant. As a black man that felt the pain of Trayvon’s parents I take great umbrage with your characterization of myself and others efforts, angst and protest as blacks supporting blacks simply because we are black. It’s two years later–what facts are you still waiting to come out?
It’s totally your prerogative to abstain from social movements and working to bring about a more equitable across the board treatment for all people. I mean it would be nice if you were more like LeBron James and some of the more contentious athletes and entertainers who do make an effort to use their celebrity for the greater good of the community from which they come and more over for which supports them, but you are not automatically expected to take up such causes as you so eloquently stated. While the culture that has helped to elevate you to near GOAT status does not expect your loyalty, to deny that culture your loyalty the way you’ve done says a lot about your level of selfishness .When you first entered the league as a young 17 year old high school graduate you embraced the culture and the culture fully embraced you.
From taking Brandy to your prom (when we all know that a dark skin natural woman is nothing close to your style) to rapping on stage in Italian during All-star Saturday with Tyra Banks, (talk about a cornball brother) your carefully crafted image was set in a way that the average Trayvon Martin (then and now) would automatically gravitate towards your likeness and hail you as the greatest player of their generation. They bought your shoes, they made both your #8 and #24 jersey’s top sellers for years. Why would you NOT want to get a kids back like that? Does George Zimmerman wear Kobe’s too or something?
I’ve also noticed that you’ve found a surrogate and unofficial press secretary in Stephen A Smith (aka Stepin Fetchin). For years he’s served as a Kobe apologist on First Take, but now I see you got that brother working overtime on your behalf. In the last several months you dispatched that apologetic respectable negro twice to work on operation clean up Kobe’s image. The first was after Jim Brown spoke some harsh truths about you. Some truths that even a non-fan like me took some issue with. I thought that his critique was rather arbitrary and unfair. That was then–today I’m signing that petition to bring Jim back to the show to give a follow up.
Stephen A Smiths face in his second Kobe PR clean up job was enough to tell the viewer that not even he was totally sold on the message that he was dispatched to publicly co-sign– hence is very dismissive quip of “when I give a damn I will I’ll let you know” referring to the majority black population that he was reminded by Arsenio that would not appreciate his latest Kobe double down. He obviously gave some sort of damn which is why he was jumping through hoops trying to explain the inexplicable. He goes on to do an even worse job than you did in your original missive by conflating unrelated phenomenons and other partial truths with the original issue which was simply seeking justice for a young black kid who was essentially stalked and gunned down for being a young black kid.
It would behoove you to reach out to the parents of Trayvon Martin to apologize for your less than sensitive and nonsensical comments regarding the death of their son. You should also reach out to the Heat to apologize to them for questioning their gesture and the motives that went into it. You have the right to stand on the sidelines in this battle for full equality and equal treatment under the law. What you don’t have the right to do is to stand on the sideline and take shots at the brave-hearts that are willing to lose a few endorsements in order to bring to fruition a more equitable society.
P.S. Make sure you sign that petition to get Jim Brown back on Arsenio Hall to discuss your wayward commentary…
SHAKA BERRY is a NYC born writer who is a contributor to Str8TalkNoChaserRadio and is based in the nation’s capital.