Gonzo: Kobe has gone totally Hollywood

The Lakers' Kobe Bryant, sitting beside Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, makes an "L.A." gesture during Game 2 of the NLCS. Seems as if the Lower Merion product has forgotten his roots.
The Lakers' Kobe Bryant, sitting beside Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, makes an "L.A." gesture during Game 2 of the NLCS. Seems as if the Lower Merion product has forgotten his roots.
Posted: October 21, 2009

If the series goes back to L.A. (and I doubt it will), don't expect Kobe Bryant to rock any Phils gear at Dodger Stadium. The Lower Merion lad - who once dunked all over the Delaware Valley - is apparently finished with us.

It's probably for the best. I'm pretty much finished with him, too.

In sports, as in politics, perception matters. Late last week in California, the perception was that Bryant gave a very large, very public middle finger to Philadelphia. If you haven't heard or didn't see it, he was sitting with the mayor of Los Angeles, the owner of the Dodgers, and Tommy Lasorda for Game 2 of the NLCS. When the camera found him, Kobe made an "L.A." gesture with his hands.

It was like watching Zell Miller at the Republican National Convention or Arlen Specter cozy up to President Obama and the other Democrat fat cats - the defection was complete and the insult was obvious. Pictures say so much.

Ah, but that wasn't enough. Mamba wanted to make sure we got the message and sent word through Craig Sager. TBS's Technicolor Dreamcoat reporter asked the NBA's version of Kanye West - Bryant's ego has grown so impossibly large that he didn't hesitate to go out in public wearing a shirt with his own likeness on it - if it felt a little strange to root against his hometown. Even Sager knows how poorly that sort of thing plays, especially here in Philly.

"It's not weird." Bryant reportedly said. "I've lived in Los Angeles for 14 years now."

I lived in Boston and Dallas for eight years total, but I never had the urge to buy a Red Sox hat or spoon with former Big D mayor Ron Kirk. (He's not much of a cuddler, anyway.) Plenty of athletes leave home to play elsewhere, but few have so openly and unapologetically dug up their roots and scorched the earth they left behind. Can you imagine Dwyane Wade so blatantly snubbing Chi-town?

In an attempt to finally cut whatever frayed ties he still had with Philly, Sager said Kobe told him that he grew up rooting for the Mets and that he still has Ron Darling's baseball card. It's bad enough that he was a closet Mutts fan, but he held on to Ron Darling's card after all these years? Really? Until I heard that, I didn't think it was possible for Bryant to be any lamer than some of us already suspected. Next, we're going to find out his favorite player was Tim Teufel or that he slept on Wally Backman bed sheets.

Not long ago, after the Lakers won the NBA championship, I wrote a column saying Philly does not give Bryant enough respect as a player. The piece was purely about his on-court ability, and I stand by it. At the same time (as Uncle Cholly would say), I'm done thinking that the city has been too hard on him when he's not draining jumpers or rising up for highlight dunks.

All the heat he took back when he said he wanted to cut Philly's heart out seems justified now. All the verbal jabs we landed on his chin, all the booing he absorbed when he'd return to play against the Sixers, it all seems appropriate in retrospect.

Philly is different. It's not like growing up in Omaha or Jacksonville or Raleigh or some other low-rent burgh the natives can't wait to flee. It's a city the locals don't want to leave and can't wait to return to if they do. It's home. A lot of us are fiercely (even myopically) protective of it.

Even though there's a lot of infighting and dysfunction, Philly has a family feel to it. You're either one of us or you're not. It's in the blood - or at least it's supposed to be. Since Kobe is an L.A. guy now, I'll put it in terms Hollywood made famous so he'll understand: You never go against the family.

As far as sports and Bryant's link to Philly go, it's time for the Phanatic to kiss Kobe on the mouth and take him out fishing, Fredo style.

Whoa - slow down, quick draw: If you missed it, MLB.com posted a graphic on its Web site the other night declaring that the Dodgers, not the Phils, won Game 4. Oops. And, yes, I'm aware that the mistake parallels the botched report of the Dewey/Truman results. I took a freshman history class just like everyone else. You can ease up on the e-mails about that now. . . . If you've ever wanted to take a shot at Manny Ramirez, be at the corner of 16th and Chestnut today between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. The Asian World of Martial Arts will be there with a grappling dummy dressed in a Manny jersey. . . . More potential slogans from Page 2 readers: "Borderline extremely cocky" (thanks, Brad Lidge), "Wince and We-peat" and, in honor of Carlos Ruiz and the other Spanish-speakers, "¿Por qué no nosotros?" (That one made me laugh out loud.) Maybe we're overthinking it here. In honor or Harry the K, maybe we should just go with something simple and sweet and straightforward like "High Hopes."


Contact columnist John Gonzalez at 215-854-2813 or gonzalez@phillynews.com.

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