Monday, April 27, 2009

The trouble with Kobe

In a move only slightly less bizarre than two movies about Steve Prefontaine being made at the same time, there will soon be two comprehensive documentaries coming out about the two biggest stars in the NBA: Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

Each promises to go behind the scenes. Each promises to show you a side of the player you've never seen before. Each will lay claim to being the definitve story of those players, and only one will deliver: LeBron's. You only need to watch the trailers to figure out why.

First up is the LeBron move, More Than A Game, about his senior year in high school and the bond he formed with his teammates:

Here's Kobe's, directed by Spike Lee, ridiculously titled Kobe Doin' Work, a 24-hour glimpse into his life:

It's a striking contrast. The LeBron movie focuses on the relationship with his teammates and coaches. The Kobe movie focuses on Kobe.

Kind of seems fitting, doesn't it? LeBron is turning into the most popular athlete in the world. Off the court he's funny, engaging and personable. On the court, he's playing basketball as well as anyone since Michael Jordan has played it, carries his team, and yet does so in a way that's selfless. And while you can dispute the wisdom of putting his buddies in charge of his business interests, at least you know he's loyal. It's why I can watch the trailer and get sucked in. I don't get the sense it's the slightest bit contrived.

Kobe, on the other hand, can try this stuff all he wants, but it'll never change the fact that while people respect and admire the way he plays the game, no one outside of L.A. really finds him likable. And Lakers fans are idiots, so they don't count anyway. How many players are so despised by their own coach that said coach decides to quit rather than work on the relationship, then rips them to shreds in a tell-all book like Phil Jackson did. The stories about him berating teammates and treating staff members as personal assistants are well-known. Oh, and there was that rape trial.

And you'll never believe this, but reports came out today that Kobe almost torpedoed the whole project the day of shooting because he wanted creative control.

It's impossible to know if that's true, but judging by the trailer it wouldn't be surprising. It's Kobe chatting with opponents, making small talk with the trainer, having a civil conversation with refs. All they need to do is throw in footage of a pre-game meeting with a sick child and it'll be the perfect piece of Kobe propaganda.

No thanks. I'll take LeBron.


A propos of nothing other than my affinity for hockey, I present one pretty damn good commercial. Hockey fan or not, you have to admit they nailed this one:

Now for the opposite end of the hockey advertising spectrum...

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