(If you're wondering where I've been, peep my posts—one about AI and my contributions to March's Madness—over at Money Mike's "Points Off Turnovers." Many kudos to Jeff Scott for the 'Melo post. To my latest...)
I'm starting this post the FreeDarko way with a random picture first for a reason; so I guess the picture isn't so random after all. As I'm sure you know, that is the latest pregame ritual that Lebron and his teammates partake in. Now the Knicks fan in me would deduce that he's taking pictures to preserve memories in Cleveland before he bolts for Gotham. But obviously, that isn't the case. Bluntly put, it's because he's a funny guy. He is genuinely a friend to every person on that roster—even Lorenzen Wright. So why is that important? Well...
Everyone, including me, talks about how Kobe alienates his teammates and somewhat thinks of them as lower than he. But while cruising the YouTube, I found the interview he and Lebron did for ESPN/ABC. In it, you see Bryant chuckling it up with his fellow Team USA peers; and he looks really happy. Kobe has a personality and sense of humor; but only displays it to those that share the same exalted Basketball stratosphere. Basically, if you're great, you're cool. If you ain't, you ain't.
As usual, I examined the why behind this, and as with many Kobe juxtapositions, I can trace it back to Jordan. While cruising YouTube, I found the Top 13 all-access moments in Team USA Basketball from Dream Team to Redeem Team. I don't want to spoil it, but the moment with MJ in it has him kidding with Sir Charles over his "Be Like Mike" Gatorade commercial. Briefly searching my memory banks has led me to believe that the only time I've seen Jordan's smile with that much wattage is when he was hoisting the Larry O'Brien Trophy. Like MJ before him, Kobe finds true kinship with the other elite players in the Association. To me, he has to truly respect your superstar abilities in order for you to receive the privilege of sharing a smile with him. I believe it's due to his concentrated work ethic. It's a bit bourgeois, but when he was born the son of a pro athlete and bred himself to be Basketball Hokage, all lesser beings are treated as such.
Even though I believe Lebron ranks numero uno in "World's Best Basketball Player," this isn't a detraction against Kobe. Some people choose to lead in different ways. Lebron, Paul, and Wade find joy in leading others, and will take their flawed men and sprinkle a bit of their aura on them to elevate their play. They want to find out about their teammates off the court so they can have true synergy on it. It also helps that they are natural jokesters. Kobe uses the emotion of awe to get the best out of his fellow Lakers. The Jordan Farmars of the team have visions of Kobe's wrath if they don't live up to what he expects them to be. A glare from the Mamba and it's enough to force any Luke Walton to properly run the Triangle. I guarantee Kobe won't be taking pictures of Josh Powell and Chris Mihm.