Calling Out Kobe Bryant

Title: Calling Out Kobe Bryant
Date: June 17, 2008
Original Source: Hoops Addict
Synopsis: This was a Hoops Addict article, set up like so: On T.I.’s 2007 album T.I. vs. T.I.P., T.I.’s two alter egos wage war for control of the rapper and the spotlight. Much the same is currently going on with Kobe Bryant, as Kobe Bryant Team Player and Kobe Bryant Black Mamba fight for the spotlight.

I will ignore several things about the NBA Finals thus far heading into tonight’s Game 6 (which I will sadly watch via videotape at 4AM), because some things just don’t matter at this point. I will ignore that despite good numbers, Pau Gasol has played uninspired ball. I will ignore that Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic clearly have trouble co-existing. I will ignore that the advantage in charges drawn is something like 4,700-2 in favor of Boston thus far.

I will ignore all of these truths and more because none of them matter tonight and Thursday as much as they did Sunday or the days before that.

The only running subplot of this series that matters is Kobe Bryant’s inner struggle, the battle between Kobe Bryant Team Player and Kobe Bryant Black Mamba. It is a struggle that has let this series take on a face I did not expect to see, and it is this struggle and its outcome that will eventually determine the winner of the series.

I hesitated to bring up a hip-hop reference for the second straight article, but Kobe’s inner battle is almost a mirror reflection of the image created on T.I.’s 2007 album T.I. vs. T.I.P., an album on which T.I.’s two personas battle for control of the rapper. I don’t need to point out the similarity in that sweeping synopsis, but I will – Kobe’s two personas are very clearly doing battle for control of Kobe on the floor.

On the album, there are three interlude tracks and one regular track where it is very obvious that the two sides of T.I. are battling; the rest is up to the listener to decipher. Much the same, there have been very clear instances when Kobe’s two sides have been at war, though for the series as a whole you may have trouble remembering the specifics.

So meet T.I., the more calm and collected, career-oriented, business-savvy version of the rapper. This persona is usually in control (now, in the mainstream, after emerging the victor in a previous battle alluded to) and has ‘the game’ figured out to some degree. But meet T.I.P., the hood-wise, care-free, in-your-face gangster side of the rapper. This persona constantly battles for the limelight, as he is the true inspiration behind the work and the reason the rapper is a success.

Ringing any bells yet? No?

Well then please, meet Kobe Bryant. Kobe is the more calm and collected, team-oriented player with a warm smile and humorous air of likability to him. He trusts his teammates, buys into a system, and is committed to winning. This persona has been in control for most of the 2007-08 season, much to everyone’s surprise. But meet Black Mamba, the in-your-face, unabashed take-no-prisoners scoring machine hell bent on basketball domination. This persona shines through in important games and situations and yearns for his respect and legacy, as he is the true basketball artist behind the now-present image of Kobe.

Make no mistake, there are two Kobe Bryants.

For most of this season, Kobe has been Kobe – a team-oriented player trusting his team and buying into the Zenmeister’s philosophies. At times, like his 53-point game in late March or his 49-point first round game, Black Mamba has been able to take hold and win his rightful place at the forefront of the face of Kobe Bryant. In Game 5 especially, we saw the two sides do battle – Mamba came out of the gate to score 15 quickly, but was forced back inside en route to a balanced attack for the next three quarters.

The problem is not that regular ol’ Kobe Bryant isn’t a great basketball player – he is, and without this Kobe the Lakers would not be this far, their players not this developed, their hopes not so high.

The problem is that, on the biggest stage of them all, with everything on the line, the Lakers need Mamba. Phil Jackson and company, heck, Kobe himself, needs to accept the fact that there is no person on the planet better suited for controlling games 6 and 7 than Kobe Bryant, Black Mamba.

Like the track Act III: The Confrontation, where T.I. and T.I.P. confront each other in a violent war of words on their respective places (I recommend searching the lyrics for yourself, but they are explicit), I’m sure Kobe is sitting alone at this moment, in the mirror, trying to decide which side will rise in the most important game of his career. He knows that Kobe Bryant made his MVP award and his last three championships possible, but he also knows that Black Mamba is the better option in any single game, especially one of this magnitude.

So later tonight when the team’s huddle around a chalkboard, Phil Jackson’s need only say two words – Black Mamba. And Kobe just needs to say yes.

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