Kobe Bryant and Charles Barkley Air Out Their DifferencesOur long national nightmare is over. TNT's Charles Barkley blasted Kobe Bryant for being "selfish" for only shooting three times in game seven versus Phoenix and received numerous heated text messages from Bryant in response. Tonight, Bryant made a guest appearance on TNT's studio show and offered his rebuttal of Barkley's comments. He explained that in game four, which his L.A. Lakers eventually won, he also took few second half shots, sticking with the game plan of pounding the ball inside to L.A.'s post players. Bryant said that to beat Phoenix you have to get stops and that the other Lakers become more energized on defense when they are touching the ball on offense; Bryant added that he had previously put up big scoring numbers against the Suns but that this never demoralized Phoenix because the Suns would just answer back by scoring. Bryant said that some teams can be demoralized by him scoring a lot of points (hello, Toronto) but that Phoenix is not one of them.
Barkley took the blame for publicly mentioning Bryant's private text messages to him, but said that he wanted to make it clear that he has nothing personal against Bryant and that he is willing to listen to responses to his comments. Barkley did not retract his original statement and suggested that at some point a superstar must say that the game plan is not working and he must take over. Bryant insisted that the game plan was good enough to win three games and that if he had tried to score a lot of points that it would not have helped the Lakers win the game.
The exchange between Barkley and Bryant was amicable but I would have liked to hear Barkley retract the "selfish" label that he slapped on Bryant because both Bryant and Lakers Coach Phil Jackson have clearly explained exactly what happened. Wasn't it Barkley who kept insisting throughout the series that the Lakers could not beat Phoenix with Bryant scoring 40-plus points? Then he criticized Bryant for doing exactly what he had been saying Bryant should do.
The sad thing is that for many casual fans the idea that "Kobe is selfish" because of his game seven performance is going to become conventional wisdom, just like many people still insist that Kobe "drove off Shaq" even though Jerry Buss, Mitch Kupchak and Phil Jackson have all acknowledged that this was not the case. Shaq wanted max dollars for max years, the Lakers offered max dollars for a shorter term and traded him to Miami, the only team that was willing to give Shaq max dollars for max years. We'll see if that decision buys the Heat an NBA title or not.
posted by David Friedman @ 11:56 PM