Give me Kobe over A-Rod any day   

Updated: October 30, 2007, 12:40 PM ET

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Say what you will about Kobe Bryant, but at least he's not a mercenary who wants all of the money, but none of the pressure, and doesn't perform in the playoffs.

In other words, at least he's not Alex Rodriguez.

Kobe Bryant

AP Photo/Matt Sayles

Kobe, unlike A-Rod, flourishes when the pressure's on.

Both players are generally viewed as selfish, whiny divas. But as we approach the unusual sports phenomenon of having the best player in baseball head to a new team and arguably the best player in basketball also potentially on the move, understand that A-Rod and Kobe are two very different creatures.

A-Rod's decision to opt-out of New York is far more self-absorbed than Kobe's finagling to get out of Los Angeles.

Despite Kobe's flaws, we at least know he is consumed with winning championships. A-Rod is consumed with being A-Rod.

Kobe doesn't always demonstrate his aspirations maturely. It also can't be ignored that a key aspect of his championship ambitions is that he has to be the guy in the lead role. But if the worst you can say about Kobe -- whose competitive streak was cloned from Michael Jordan's -- is he no longer wanted to play alongside a once-dominant, but injury-prone center, it's not exactly a sign of the apocalypse. And considering some of the things that Lakers owner Jerry Buss has said about Kobe in recent weeks, we've seen that Buss is his own man -- if he really wanted to keep Shaq, he would have kept him. Buss' main concern was dumping another $100 million into the fourth Fu-Schniken.

But does anything in A-Rod's history or demeanor suggest he's remotely obsessed with winning the way Kobe is? A-Rod seems more obsessed with being loved than winning. He wants all the perks, but none of the responsibility. He wants 100-plus RBIs, and to eventually be the home run king. Just don't expect him to bring any of the necessary intangibles it takes to win something meaningful.

Sounds like a perfect fit for the Chicago Cubs.

A-Rod isn't a leader, comes off as insecure and teams mysteriously seem better off when he's gone. Kobe? The three-time champion thrives under pressure and the low opinions some people have of him.

Kobe was criticized for brutally assessing the Lakers' lack of progress. But when A-Rod was a Yankee, the only thing that seemed to bother him was his own personal slumps.

Wouldn't you prefer a player who gets upset about losing more than a player who seems fine with it as long as he can stare at his pretty statistics and pay stubs? Can you blame Kobe for complaining about any plan that included passing on a skilled player who could help the Lakers in the present in favor of the long-term coddling of Andrew Bynum? Has A-Rod ever exhibited that kind of passion and determination? Has he ever given answers that didn't sound rehearsed?

Even if A-Rod somehow wound up playing for the world champion Red Sox -- and if you're listening Boston, adding this guy to your clubhouse is akin to putting Britney Spears on "Nanny 911" -- it would be difficult to interpret A-Rod's actions as that of a man driven to win.

A-Rod, of course, has the right to chase as much money as he wants. It's not his fault if the market dictates he earn an astronomical figure. There's no denying there were times he was unfairly brutalized in New York. The stalking by the tabloids was unacceptable, as was the fascination with his personal life. But the problems he had there will follow him into his next clubhouse.

It's fair to accuse A-Rod and Kobe of being types who can't operate in a locker room unless they control it.

The difference is, there've been signs that Kobe has outgrown some of that. A-Rod doesn't seem like he ever will.

Page 2 columnist Jemele Hill can be reached at jemeleespn@gmail.com.


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