Kobe letters: Second thoughts on second half

Updated: May 9, 2006, 2:31 AM ET
ESPN.com

Editor's Note: Here's a selection of letters to Page 2's Bill Simmons about Kobe Bryant's performance in Game 7 of the first-round series loss to the Suns.

Looks like the voters got it right ... at least the part about not giving the award to Kobe. There is no way that the league MVP would score just one point in the second half of a Game 7 in a playoff series. There's just no way that would happen. I hope this puts to rest all the Kobe/Jordan comparisons that are still floating around out there. Kobe is not on his level. He never will be. Quite frankly, it's not even close.
-- Geoff, Agawam, Mass.

Kobe Bryant
Harry How/Getty ImagesIt's the third quarter -- and Kobe's not looking too good.

Game 7 of the Laker-Suns series was like in grade school when you challenge a big kid to race only after it starts he just jogs halfway and lets you win. You're right, the MJ comparisons stop now.
-- Rick M., New York

Let me first make you understand that I am a LIFELONG Lakers fan -- I was born, I grew up, and now live less than one mile from the Fabulous Forum -- and I have listened to the whole "Kobe has no supporting cast"/"Kobe is transforming"/"Kobe is becoming MJ" thing. And now I will remind you of the exact evidence as to why Kobe is not the next MJ. Is he more talented than MJ at his age? YES. Is he the next basketball savior? NO.

Because at the end of the day let's remember: 1) The reason Kobe has no supporting cast is because he wanted it that way AND 2) Kobe only cares about Kobe, from the day he left Eddie Jones wide open for 3 in the corner while he took a 40-foot airball against Utah in his first playoff series (and eventually got him traded away too), to the time in Sacto when the "hacks" were saying he was taking too many shots (so he purposely didn't shoot the whole game), to tonight when he decided that he would get ultimate revenge against Phil's whole "team concept" and the "hacks" saying he shot too much in Game 6 by "just running the offense" in a deciding Game 7.

At the end of the day Kobe has never felt the "hunger" for basketball like MJ (or Magic or Bird) did, because through it all he was already coddled and never paid his dues. At the end of the day Kobe believes his own hype, and Kobe goes out of his way to TRY to show that basketball "needs" him more than he "needs" it -- and it is that basic difference that will separate the two -- because we are at 10 years and counting and he hasn't changed yet.
-- Dorian, Inglewood, Calif.

Did the other Laker starters play above themselves for four games or was Kobe gracious in sharing the ball, thus allowing the team to reap the rewards? I think it's the former. I don't want to play the role of "I-told-you-so" revisionist historian (but I will anyway), but when everyone was praising Kobe for sharing the ball, I was telling everyone that if the other Lakers had played like this all year long, he'd have given them they keys to the car long before now. It's like when Robert Downey Jr. checks out of rehab and seems to have his act together, but you're never quite sure if he's really clean and you aren't the least bit suprised when he relapses. It's almost like we got a glimpse into an alternate universe where Kobe had decent teammates.

And I can't wait to hear the criticisms about Kobe taking too few shots (presumably these people would prefer Kobe to score 40, so that the Lakers would only have lost by 20, paving the way for Kobe getting blamed for not getting everyone involved). And I really can't wait for people to wisely begin observing that "at least Shaq is still playing" as if Chicago and Phoenix are anywhere remotely on the same level.
-- DeAngelo L., Santa Monica, Calif.

An MVP does NOT throw in the towel during the second half of a Game 7. I don't know if Kobe was trying to make some kind of statement or what, but that's not what an MVP does. Period.
-- Alex, Provo, Utah

After Kobe's Game 7 performance, not only should MJ comparisons be forbidden, he should have to give up his self-proclaimed status as Black Mamba. Maybe he could call himself the Mottled Garter Snake or something like that. No way MJ disappears like that in a Game 7. Ever.
-- Chuck J., Centreville, Va.

Someone please explain what happened to Kobe in the second half. I consider myself a Laker fan of the highest order. Diehard. I cheered like crazy for Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Shaq, Kobe, Fish, and even Cedric Ceballos and Chucky Atkins. I've been with them all the way. And yet I don't get the second half. Defending Kobe's integrity for the last 10 years suddenly feels futile and pointless.
-- Gov D., Metro Manila, Philippines

Kobe would be great on "The Apprentice." When it became clear that the Lakers had lost Game 7, Kobe went into his "boardroom defense" strategy. At the time, he was shooting over 50 percent and had 23 first-half points. Why should he bother to shoot in the second half? How could he be fired by passing the ball and getting his teammates involved? How easy it is to blame it on the Project Manager's (Phil's) game plan? Congrats on your boardroom victory, Kobe.
-- Rick S., San Diego

So apparently Kobe was trying to get teammates into a rhythm during the second half. Funny, I must have missed his drives and dishes, and his post-ups that drew double-teams and created open shots. I did, however, see Kobe harmlessly swing the ball around the 3-point line quite a bit. Has any other "superstar" been so passive with the season on the line? You can debate whether Kobe should be MVP but there's no debate whether he makes his teammates better. Either he doesn't know how or Saturday he didn't want to try. And if he didn't want to try and he didn't want to shoot, then he quit.
-- Jonathan, Venice, Calif.

How much is Kobe trying to stick it to Phil Jackson and the media right now? Criticized for "shooting" too much in all of the Lakers' losses, he's willing to let the Lakers lose this series to prove a point that this is his team (and his success that got him to this point, not Phil's great coaching). The Mamba is tricky like that -- just when you think you have him figured out . . .
-- Jonathan, Morgantown, W. Va.

Watching Kobe in the second half -- wow. What blew me away was that, time after time, he would catch the ball, get doubled, give it up, and then DO NOTHING, literally just stand there. Your team is down 20-plus late in the third quarter in Game 7, no one on the floor except you should be allowed in the same ZIP code as a basketball player, and you're not going to try to take over the game? You're not going to start, I don't know, making some cuts or something after you're forced to give the ball up, in an attempt to get it back?

I doubt they would have won either way, but Kobe's performance in the second half was absolutely baffling. Which is why I'm convinced he's blown tens of millions on ice for his wife, is secretly in debt to the Stucci brothers, and was therefore forced to throw the game. It makes more sense than anything else I can come up with.

There's some solace in this, however: I'd been forced to acknowledge Kobe's brilliance recently, simply because I'd been watching him so much. This was an uncomfortable situation for me to be in, because a) I'm a Boston fan and b) Kobe's a jerk. Now I have reason to dislike him again. So even though I was robbed of an entertaining Game 7, it wasn't a total wash.
-- Jesse S., Boston

No more MJ comparisons. It's over. Three shots in the second half? He mailed it in with half a game to play! Kobe as MVP? What a joke [because] (a) MVP's shouldn't lose Game 7s; (b) if they're going to, I want them to lose by shooting 45 shots, making 10, and breaking their face because they dove for too many loose balls. What a disgrace. I don't even like basketball, and guys like Kobe are why. There's too little heart in the NBA and way too much posturing.
-- Mike, NYC

How about Kobe tanking the entire second half of Game 7? The great thing about egomaniacal prima donnas is that you can always count on them to showcase their true colors sooner or later with some grand spectacle of unprofessional petulance (see Carter, Vince). Snaps to Mamba on setting back the resuscitation of his image another 4-6 months. Oh and sweet mid-career number change. Awful.
-- Matt, Washington, D.C.

How come no one is talking about Kobe completely stabbing his teammates in the back in the second half of Game 7? There's a difference between (a) not taking 40 shots and (b) completely taking yourself out of the offense by standing at half court the entire half. Kobe was clearly trying to distance himself from the loss and let the blame fall squarely on his teammates. And then in the postgame interview Kobe made it sound like the Lakers never had chance -- like they were the Generals and the Suns were the Globetrotters. Are you really telling me that Kobe would have sounded like that if Thomas's 3 had been a half-inch off at the end of Game 6? The man is incapable of admitting that he got beat. It's like when you're playing against a cocky [player] in a pickup game, who realizes he's going to lose, and stops trying at all just to let everyone know that they didn't beat him when he was trying. That crap works at the Y, but it doesn't work in Game 7 of an NBA series.
-- Scott, Washington, D.C.

Michael Jordan
APIt didn't end well in Washington, but a history of clutch performances earned Michael Jordan a victory lap or two.

Second half of Game 7 points out all that needs to be said about your MVP pick (not that Nash had a great game). But Kobe giving up after an amazing first half to keep them even in the picture was unbelievable. I never liked him, but I respected his talent, his skills, and his competitiveness -- now I have no respect at all. He gave up, didn't want to be blamed for the loss and, to top it off, pulled an Isiah and walked off the court without shaking hands. He is simply a classless individual who will never win another title. The media must now observe a permanent moratorium on all comparisons to MJ (which were insane from the beginning).
-- Chris, Richmond, Va.

I'm sure you're getting tons of these emails, but no matter what Kobe does the rest of his career, the Kobe/Jordan comparison is officially over. Jordan would NEVER let any of his teams lose by 30 in a Game 7. You could put Jordan with me and three other of my slow, overweight friends and we still wouldn't lose by 30.
-- Avi, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Maybe you should come up with a "Failed Vengeance Scale" to cover events such as Kobe seeming like he'd get revenge, then going splat. His teammates didn't help, but do you really think Michael Jordan would have launched only three shots in the seconnd half?
-- Fritz, New Orleans, La.

Kobe's second-half performance in Game 7 against the Suns had to rank among the weirdest I've ever seen. Was the Phoenix defense that good? Doubtful. Was he mailing it in? Was he trying to prove a point (the weakness of his supporting cast, his importance to the team)? Zero field goals in the second half!? One measly technical free throw!? He didn't attack the basket once! Yes, Phoenix had a 15-point lead at the half. Daunting? Yes. Insurmountable? No way. Simply inexplicable. No more MJ comparisons, please. No way MJ mails in a Game 7. EVER. And no more MVP whining, either. I have no desire to get acquainted with Kobe's demons, but there's something strange going on in there. I watched in disbelief (and with glee).
-- Adam Caress, Manchester, Mass.

And don't know what is more satisfying: Being a Suns fan and having to endure a week where every sportswriter in the country wrote about the impending Lakers/Clips duel . . . but then, hold on, wait . . . I got your Hallway Series right . . . HERE! Or watching Mamba flat-out quit during the second half in a Game 7 of a playoff series. (Do MVP's actually do this?!) What a beautiful week!
-- Nick, Chippewa Falls, Wis.

Watching Bryant quit in the second half of Game 7 was like watching as if Ray Lewis were to raise up his hands and say "[forget] it" in the middle of a wild-card game. MVPs do not put on their pouty face when things don't go their way. It doesn't work for me in real life and it most certainly doesn't work in Game 7 of the playoffs. I can't help but feel sorry for Lakers fans, something I never thought I would EVER say, given that I cheer for the Celtics. Kobe now ranks alongside Barry Bonds and Marcus Vick on the list of "Holy Crap I Can't Believe He's Actually Doing That" performances of this century.
-- Brian H., Brighton, Mass.

Poor David Blaine. He spends a week in a water-filled bubble only to have Kobe come along and pull the greatest disappearing act of all time. What a shame.
-- Neil L., Burns Lake, British Columbia

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