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March to the Sea: Kobe Should Focus On His Criminal Trial

By Alex M. Sherman, Crimson Staff Writer

Don’t play, Kobe.

This article became a lot harder to write after I selected Kobe Bryant in my fantasy basketball draft. But alas, I shall continue my attempts to show Brenda Lee the path to salvation….

Kobe, don’t play right now. You’re injured. You’re feuding with Shaq to a level where it makes me uncomfortable just reading the transcripts of your latest outbursts. And based on statements you made a couple weeks ago to the tune of “every day is a miserable day,” I’m guessing something else might be on your mind.

And how can it not be. He must be going through hell, every day, every second. He faces significant jail time if convicted of sexual assault, and it seems as though there may be substantial evidence against him. He’s already publicly admitted to committing adultery, which alone would probably be enough to severely rattle a 25-year old man.

Of course, who am I to tell Kobe Bryant what to do? If he wants to play, far from me to be one to tell him otherwise. I’ve never met him, don’t know what he’s actually feeling and certainly don’t claim be the voice of morality here—I used the phrase “for me to poop on” in a column two weeks ago.

But from a fan’s standpoint, I don’t want to see a clearly struggling Kobe Bryant on the court. If his heart isn’t the game, it’s not fair to his teammates or to himself. And how could your heart be in the game when you’re facing the biggest trial since OJ waiting in the near future?

Kobe’s going to take a beating by opposing fans, who will likely taunt him unmercifully. Shaq has already said he doesn’t want him playing if he’s not 100 percent, which he clearly isn’t, both mentally and physically. If your own teammates are calling for you to sit, something’s terribly wrong.

It’s conceivable that Kobe might waive his right for a speedy trial if he wants to play the entire season. But can you imagine playing basketball and taking interviews, day after day, with a trial for your life hovering in the horizon? I mean, my God! I get nervous thinking about my eight-page essay due next week! Pushing a life-altering court case out of your mind is certainly impossible, no matter where you are or what you’re doing.

Can Kobe play basketball successfully? Yes. Can he, for a couple hours, forget about his problems and concentrate on the game? Of course. Will he be at his best? My guess is no. And if he’s not at his best, why not take a break, focus on your trial, do whatever you can to assure a “not-guilty” verdict, and then come back to the NBA when everything has settled down? If you thought Kobe was good before his trial, can you imagine how dominant a relieved and completely relaxed Kobe would be? I know from personal experience—playing sports is a lot easier if you’re in a good mood, without a concern in the world.

A counter-argument is that Kobe, if convicted, might not be able to play at this level ever again. Therefore, he should play now while he still possesses the skills to dominate, especially when Gary Payton and Karl Malone are on a one or two-year rental.

But if Kobe isn’t playing like Kobe, he’ll get frustrated and may wish he took a break this season. And though the Mailman and the Glove are potential future Hall-of-Famers, Kobe has already won three championships. He doesn’t need to win this season for a fulfilled life.

But it is his life that’s on the line in a Colorado courthouse. That should be his focus, for now.

Kobe doesn’t need basketball. He’s said over and over again how little basketball means to him in the grand scheme of things. If he believes basketball is the best thing for his mental state, then he should go for it. But if basketball is the last thing on his mind right now, perhaps he should take a seat.

—Staff writer Alex M. Sherman can be reached at sherman@fas.harvard.edu.

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