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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Champagne and Charity

There has not been much real NBA news since Team USA won the FIBA Americas tournament. Greg Oden's upcoming knee surgery is potentially bad news, of course, but it could also end up being a non-story, so while Portland fans swear that they see the ghost of Sam Bowie I'll reserve comment until Oden's doctor issues a post-surgery diagnosis. I have no interest in who is getting divorced or who was supposedly getting divorced but may not be getting divorced after all, nor am I intrigued by various arrests for low level offenses. One story that does not interest me at all attracted my attention simply because of how much play it got in the national media; the coverage--and the motives behind the coverage--is more worthy of analysis than the story itself.

In case you missed it--and I don't know how you could--during a night on the town, Kobe Bryant supposedly spent $21,000 on champagne. Like I said, I don't find that particularly interesting, nor do I know if it is even true. Somehow, this non-story managed to grab the attention of national media outlets and it apparently outraged some people who decried the wastefulness/vanity of this act and wondered why Bryant did not donate this money to charity. If Bryant did in fact spend $21,000 on champagne, one could certainly make a good case that this was a wasteful and vain act but that is not really the point. Earlier this year, Gilbert Arenas held a birthday party for himself, sending out invitations that--according to the Washington Post--cost him $40,000 to make and another $20,000 to send out via Fed Ex. As Clinton Portis might say, it's Arenas' money and it's Arenas' party, so who cares? That seemed to be the approach that most of the media took regarding Arenas' party: this is just Gilbert being Gilbert. So why is what Bryant allegedly did apparently so newsworthy and offensive?

There are two things that need to be considered here. First, according to HoopsHype.com, Bryant will make $19,490,625 this season just in salary from the Lakers and not including his endorsements. Let's say that the average NBA ticket buyer makes $50,000 per year. What Bryant allegedly spent on champagne is the equivalent of that ticket buyer spending $53.87. If you spend a night on the town or go out to eat after a day at the office would it seem right if someone questioned your character because you spent $53.87? Second, Bryant and many other NBA players are very generous in contributing their time and money to worthy charitable endeavors. Some people mock the NBA Cares advertisements but there is a reason that the league bought air time to present this information: the mainstream media does not give anywhere close to adequate coverage of all of the good work that the league and its players do. For those of you who did not click on the above link, it is a piece by Kevin Ding that lists some of the charitable activities of Bryant, Chauncey Billups, Luol Deng and Steve Nash, the four nominees for the 2007 J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, which is presented by the Pro Basketball Writers Association (Nash won the honor this year). All of these players' charitable resumes are impressive and they are not alone: Dikembe Mutombo has spent millions of his own dollars to build a much needed hospital in his native Congo and David Robinson has spent millions of his own dollars to build the Carver Academy, to cite just two more examples. Here is what Ding noted about Bryant:

Bryant launched his charitable foundation (The Vivo Foundation) for young people, offering educational and cultural enrichment such as travel to Italy for Hispanic College Fund students and Phase3 (black youth leaders) students. Hosted a Christmas celebration at Disney World for the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Florida. Has granted nearly 125 wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions, most through the Make-a-Wish Foundation, including follow-up calls, out-of-state travel and personal parties. Financed improvements and partnered with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Los Angeles and St. Jude's Children's Hospital. Previously donated $100,000 for Hurricane Katrina relief and raised money for South Asia tsunami relief. Active in the Lakers' Read to Achieve and Season of Giving activities.

Here are three relevant questions:

1) Why is flamboyant spending "tolerated" by some celebrities and not others?

2) How much money, as a percentage of one's income, do critics of celebrities' spending habits spend on alcohol and/or other forms of entertainment?

3) How much money, as a percentage of one's income, do those same critics spend on charitable endeavors?

In case I have not made this perfectly clear, I could not care less about Arenas' party or Bryant's champagne and this post is not really about either player; it is about how the media determines what is newsworthy and attempts to shape the public's views of these stories. Bryant's critics are hypocritical in this instance if they don't apply the same standard across the board from A to Z--from Gilbert Arenas to themselves. Many of the top national sportswriters and broadcasters make millions of dollars per year. How much do they spend on champagne? How much do they contribute to charity? If they are going to venture away from discussing what athletes do professionally to applying a microscope to their personal lives then perhaps these "watchdogs" can enlighten the rest of us about their own actions, too.

posted by David Friedman @ 1:28 AM



At Wednesday, September 12, 2007 5:04:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

great post David!

the fickle world of celebrity gossip - its ridiculous

but its all about selling papers, or getting page hits

thats the main thing

with Arenas, at the moment, he is seen as some kind of cool, hip, funny celebrity - so, yes any kind of story that enhances that will be put in a positive light

with Kobe, his popularity is probably still pretty low, so anything that puts him in a bad light will be snapped up

At Wednesday, September 12, 2007 6:56:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anymous reggie

people dont like kobe thats why it's a double standard aginst him alot of it is his fault he wasnt truthful with the shaq situation, very arrogant and obnoxius to me. always has run ins with teamates smush parker said he wasnt a good people person. so i think alot of it is on him and gilbert a cool cat it his birthday party people spend money and have a good time. but personality wise gilbert is alot better to me, his teamates have always seem to like him a corky funny guy i like him.

At Thursday, September 13, 2007 12:20:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Let's see how much longer Smush Parker is even in the NBA before we lend much credence to anything that he says. Parker had a bad attitude all of last season and was completely uncoachable, so for him to say anything bad about Kobe--who just showed once again what kind of teammate and leader he is during the FIBA Americas tournament--reflects more poorly on him than it does on Bryant. As the saying goes, consider the source.

It is interesting to me that Gilbert is so widely viewed as such a great guy and a good teammate. He is a point guard who plays no defense and jacks up shots from all over the court. I'm not saying that he is a bad person or a bad player but is he really as great as everyone says? This makes no sense, just like this idea that Chad Johnson's celebrations are cute but Terrell Owens' are disruptive to the team--there is the Jim Brown/Jerry Rice/Barry Sanders "act like you've been there before school" and then there is the Owens/Johnson/Joe Horn "make a big production out of every play" school. Owens, Johnson and Horn each have no Super Bowl rings but at least I've seen Owens play hurt and I've seen him make big catches in playoff games.

Bottom line, what I'm saying about Kobe/Gilbert and Owens/Johnson is the same thing: be consistent. If someone is on a mission to call out athletes for their spending habits then do the research and call out the worst offenders. If someone does not like TD celebrations then call out everyone who does it.

At Thursday, September 13, 2007 6:54:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anymous reggie

chad johnson and gilbert arenas are not owens and kobe it's crazy to even think that. as far as owens is concerned he called out teamates coaches and organization in philly and san francisco chad johnson does none of that he just has funny celebrations but he's never been disruptive to his team.

as far as bryant is concerend very arrogant and if you ask former teamates about him they couldnt stand his butt. gilbert arenas is a funny corky guy but has never had those problems like kobe. even he sadi kobe a great player just dont have a good attitude which is very true. kobe has always been a fake one guy in public another behind closed doors, and if it's not all about him he whines and cries like he did about the trade earlier in the summer.

BOTTOM LINE. owens and kobe made they own beds. it's not chad john son and gilbert arenas fault dont hate them for that.

At Friday, September 14, 2007 1:44:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

I don't "hate" any of the guys we are talking about.

You are mistaken about Johnson not calling out teammates, though; He had a tantrum in the locker room during a playoff game and has had confrontations (usually with his coach) on other occasions, too. Of course, since the media apparently like him more than they like Owens you don't hear so much about Johnson's tantrums (it was reported and then forgotten about and did not become the subject of 47 ESPN special reports).

Why do you call Kobe arrogant but not Arenas? Didn't Arenas say that he would score 50 against Seattle and Phoenix because he thought their coaches mistreated him during Team USA tryouts? Isn't that arrogant? You could make a case for both guys being arrogant but why is only Kobe criticized for this? Is it even a bad thing for a great athlete to be arrogant? The old saying is that it is not bragging if you can back it up. I don't see too many "pelts" (as Bill Parcells would call it) on Arenas' walls but Kobe has three rings, two scoring titles and multiple All-NBA and All-Defensive selections. Are you telling me that you dislike all athletes who are confident/arrogant or just Kobe? What about when Shaq says that he is the "Big" this or the "Big" that (Aristotle, Deporter, Sewer, etc.)? Isn't that arrogant?

How do you know that Kobe is one way in public and another in private? Have you met him even once in either setting? I've met him multiple times "in public" (for interviews) and have never met him "in private." I would not pretend to know the difference between his public and private selves so I wonder what makes you qualified to evaluate this.

Let's do a thought experiment: if the Lakers get bounced out of the playoffs two years in a row but Kobe wins the scoring title both years and doesn't complain wouldn't you say that he is selfish and only cares about scoring, not winning? So why is it "whining" when he demands that the team make some moves to improve itself? This is just another example of a double standard. If Arenas said that his team needed to improve then you would say that he is being "quirky" (I assume that is the word that you meant in your previous posts).

I don't have a problem with "Gilbert being Gilbert," "Chad being Chad" or any of the other guys. My problem is with media coverage that is not fair and that gives a free pass to one guy's big spending but blasts another guy for doing the same thing.

At Friday, September 14, 2007 9:58:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anymous reggie

chad johnson had one incident but terrell owens was a weekly thing for two years. i agree it was a double standard on the td celebrations but chad johnson and owens come off two diffrent ways on things. and johnson does not take everything to the media like owens do, which is owens fault.

kobe arrogance to many of us who dont like him as a person, comes off as the world belongs to me and nobody supposed to be better than me attitude, case in point not giveing arenas his due after he scored 60 on him last year, and saying gilbert was a terrible shot taker. and he is the worst in nba history and routinely goes 1 on 5 totally hypricrtical for kobe to go there. when arenas said kobe was his favirote player too and even said he was the best player in the league by far after it, all he ask for was some due kobe as usual doesnt give it.

larry bird used to do that to teams all the time thats confidence in your game from a basketball point of view what arenas did with phoenix and seattle friendly competition and both teams didnt take offense at what he said anyway.
kobe had a better career than arenas i dont dispute that but arenas is still young and those 3 rings was with shaq as the one option i remeber? shaq has chrasima what johnson arenas and jordan used to have not at his level you know. when shaq says something it's not in a selfish way most of the time he just trying to be a funny guy like he is his arrogance totally diffrent from kobe. and shaq has been liked by all teamates except kobe and penny. kobe hasnt been liked by too many teamates if any, when reporters from other teams ask about kobe to his teamates in closed doors all of them said he was a jerk. maybe he changed now i doubt it though.

At Saturday, September 15, 2007 1:34:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

I don't want to keep going back and forth about Chad Johnson but he has had much more than just one incident; Coach Marvin Lewis had to talk to him on several occasions about staying focused on what is best for the team. If you don't know about these incidents that is most likely because the media does not play them up the way that they play up everything about Owens.

I already went over the whole Kobe/Arenas "quality shots" issue when it first happened. The bottom line is that Kobe was accurate in what he said. Maybe you feel like he should not have said it but it's the truth; Arenas forces shots a lot more than Kobe does--particularly from the three point line--and Arenas is a point guard, not a shooting guard. Arenas also plays no defense.

How do you know that the teams took no offense at what Arenas said? It was Portland and Phoenix, by the way, not Seattle. After Arenas said that he would drop 50 on Portland he scored 9 points on 3-15 shooting, including 0-8 from three point range. He had two assists and five turnovers and his Wizards lost 94-73. Here is some of what I wrote in my post after that game (Feb. 12, 2007 if you want to read the whole thing): "Check out what Arenas' own coach, Eddie Jordan, said about Agent Zero after the Portland disaster: 'First of all, we didn't have the leadership out there that we needed with Antawn out. And no one else has stepped up into a leadership role.' The 'no one else' line is of course a direct shot at the misfiring Arenas. The Washington Post's Mike Wise wrote an interesting article detailing how Washington's season seems to be on the verge of unraveling. Jordan and Arenas are openly feuding because the coach thinks--correctly--that the Wizards must become better defensively, while Arenas believes that the Wizards should stick with the same style of play that led to a first round exit from the playoffs last year." Arenas is not anywhere close to as good as Kobe as a player or a leader but, hey, he gives good quotes so of course the media loves him.

Here are their head to head numbers in the two games last season:

Kobe's overall numbers in the two games: 42 ppg, 7 rpg, 8 apg, 29-50 field goal shooting (.580), 9-16 three point shooting (.563), 17-20 free throw shooting (.850). Agent Zero's overall numbers in the two games: 48.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 6 apg, 26-61 field goal shooting (.426), 8-27 three point shooting (.296), 37-44 free throw shooting (.841).

Kobe outperformed Arenas in every category except for total points.

You still have not explained why what Arenas, Shaq, Johnson, etc. say is funny but what Kobe says is arrogant. That is just your opinion or your perception, based in no small part on how the media portrays these guys. You don't really know them.

How do you know that Kobe's teammates don't like him? Caron Butler is a close friend of his. Kobe and Derek Fisher get along well. No one likes all of his teammates, just like most people don't like everybody they work with. You are mistaken if you think that Kobe is a disliked player and to say that behind closed doors they all say he is a jerk is a lie. Have you spoken with his teammates behind closed doors? What is your source of information for that statement? I've seen him interacting with his teammates, with fellow All-Stars and with opponents, so I know that you are wrong about this. Some fans may not like him but that is a different story.

At Saturday, September 15, 2007 9:04:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anymous reggie

reality is about johnson first he hasn't been nearly as disruptive as owens anybody in football will tell you that ask anybody in the bengals behind closed doors theyll tell you that. plus owens an attention seeeker who goes to the media and makes everything public, he brings it on himself.

the first game arenas outplayed kobe and kobe act like a poor sport baby not giveing arenas his due for gettting out played. you expect the media to give kobe his due hold kobe to the same standards and tell him to give arenas his due. thats why nobody likes him because he thinks the world revolves around him and he found out it doesnt.

arenas shaq and johnson are humble nice guys not really arrogant at all as people kobe is period. he thinks it's all about him, and if it's not he cries and throw tantrums like a little baby. kobe arrogance is a distasteful one where arenas shaq and johnson is not.

kobe is not a good defender anymore anyway and cant lead a team past 42 wins. i never said arenas was a better player than kobe i was talking about kobe not giveing him his due in that game. and as wise said he gives great quotes why people like him kobe has a bland personality that seems fake to me. and what does what happen to the wizards last year got to do with likeing arenas as a person? or they head to head numbers? im strickly talking about the post you wrote. i understand youre a big kobe fan or whatever but makeing these excuses for him not to give him his due is wrong.

as far as his teamates likeing him i seen enough reporters from other teams talk to players and anybody who knew kobe and all of them said he was a jerk as a person come on man. all his teamates in la didnt like him they all like shaq though i wonder why. he has never been liked as a person and even kobe admitted he didnt care about being a good teamate early in his career which i think now caught up with.

hey your a big kobe fan youre gonna see what you see and it is what it is. but he's not the person you think he is and never has been. i never met him of course but ive heard enough about him to know the media perception of him is 100 percent right.

At Saturday, September 15, 2007 6:48:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

"i never met him of course but ive heard enough about him to know the media perception of him is 100 percent right."

That says it all. Since you have never met him, everything that you have heard about him is based on
"the media perception of him"--and you have no way of knowing whether or not that media perception is correct.

Kobe, Arenas, Johnson and Shaq all display arrogance in various ways. Your personal choice is to find three of them admirable and one of them not but you have not listed one objective reason for making this distinction.

Kobe did not act like a "poor sport." Someone asked him a question and he gave an honest--and accurate--answer about how Arenas plays. The head to head stats and other Arenas numbers that I cited demonstrate that what Kobe said about Arenas' shot selection is true. Arenas is a talented player who got really hot in that one 60 point game but overall he is not all that efficient and he shoots way too much for a point guard, particularly all the threes that he takes early in the shot clock. The coaches voted Kobe to the All-D First Team last year and I have talked to a number of players and coaches in the league on this subject, so I'll trust their evaluations of Kobe's defense over yours.

This has nothing to do with being a "fan" of Kobe. My posts here focus mainly on two issues: 1) Objectively analyzing the game of basketball; 2) objectively analyzing the inconsistent way that the mainstream media reports about various matters. Point 1 is relevant here regarding Kobe's comments about Arenas and point 2 was the subject of this particular post. Anyone who has a problem with Kobe's alleged champagne spending should also have a problem with Arenas' party. That's all I'm saying. I don't care that much about either thing and did not write about them here until what Kobe did attracted so much negative attention; that revealed a bias in the way that the media covers things and that bias--not Kobe or Arenas per se--is the subject of this post.

At Saturday, September 15, 2007 7:13:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anymous reggie

i told you already that kobe is a arrogant person period he thinks he better than people and if he gets outshined he acts like a baby like he did with arenas. and he is the worst shot taker in the league so he has no right to speak on arenas bad shots, and that had nuthing to do with him scoreing 60 on him. he should of said he played great today. he showed he was great player thats it, not hate on him or analyze his game thats not his place. and say nonsense like he took terrible shots etc, he was hateing on gilbert thats why i dont have much respect for him. and gilbert was classy after saying he still though kobe was by far the best player just give me my due. i would of dissed kobe back.

kobe mad all nba defensive on what he did in the past he was not a great defnder last year. and shaq and gilbert and chad have chraima when they say something there not being arrogant there just being funny, when shaq says im the most dominant ever that is not a negative arrogance thats just shaq being funny and he's not dissing anyone doing it. kobe arrogance is negative shaq and them are not you wanna lump all 4 together because youre a kobe fan fine. but the real fans no the diffrence thats why they dont like kobe alot like myself.

and your a irrational fan of kobe my friend you think everything kobe does negative to people is okay, but if you dont give kobe his full proper do it's a double standard. see it dont work that way my friend thats what kobe found out if you want respect from the people you got to give it.

At Sunday, September 16, 2007 1:05:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

All you are doing is repeating the same charges over and over without providing any OBJECTIVE proof that they are true. Repeating something over and over does not make it true.

I've already provided objective examples refuting each of your subjective comments.

As for Kobe's defense, the All-Defensive Team is voted on by the league's head coaches. They are not voting on reputation; they are voting on what they see during the season and on how they have to prepare for certain players/teams. Kobe's defensive abilities have to be taken into account in scouting reports. Don't forget that in the Team USA scrimmage Kobe hit the game-winning shot and then on the next play defended LeBron, who missed his attempt to win the game.

I'm not sure what "negative" things Kobe did that you are talking about but you apparently did not read my post clearly. I did not defend--or attack--Kobe's champagne spending or Arenas' party. I said that such things should be covered the same way. I did not mention either thing here at the time that they happened because such stories do not interest me. However, when I saw the kind of coverage that the Kobe story got, I made this post to comment about the double standard that is being applied.

At Sunday, September 16, 2007 10:32:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anymous reggie

i repeated over becuase you dont get it apparently i said kobe arrogance is IM BETTER THAN PEOPLE ONE DUDE. shaq aroogance and others is not shaq is just playing around when he say all you earthlings this or that, or im the big aristotle thats not negative comment at all. dont hate on arenas and shaq cause they got personality and kobe stuck on himself butt doesnt please.

and by the way what statements did you refute i said? and everything i heard about him isnt media preception these are people who talk to his teamates behind closed doors. and too many reporters from other teams have said the same thing for me to believe it is conicedence. his teamates have never backed him up or came out and said they liked him like i seen almost every shaq teamate do come on you man i know you like kobe and all the truth hurts though.

his defense wasnt that good last season the other years he was good defender not last. okay he guarded james on the scrimmage thing that makes him a great defender. and the coaches vote on reputation all the time as well.

you said it was a double standard on the party and all im saying is that kobe doesnt have a good past with the press and they dont like him for his former stuff so he's not going to get a fair shake with them like barry bonds or albert pujols or somebody else they dont like. is it fair no but thats just how it is.

At Sunday, September 16, 2007 1:32:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

I agree with your last statement that the media coverage is not fair. Thank you for acknowledging the main point of my post.

I cited Caron Butler and Derek Fisher as two specific teammates who are good friends with Kobe. Care to cite a specific teammate (other than the legendary Smush) who is not?

How can you say that your comments are not based on what the media says? What other source of Kobe information do you have since you have never met him? EVERYTHING that you know--or think that you know--about Kobe is filtered through the media. You admitted that the media is not fair to Kobe, so why trust what is said about him?

At Sunday, September 16, 2007 2:26:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

I should add that I think the whole thing of how well liked an athlete is or how many friends that he has is overrated; I am more interested in his work habits in practice and how he performs in the games. Still, I would like to hear some specific examples of all this "behind the scenes" chatter that you think you know about. I have seen Kobe interacting with his teammates and opponents at various games and at the past three All-Star Games and I see no evidence that he is disliked to the degree that you suggest.

Sometimes things are said in the heat of battle but that does not mean that someone is disliked overall. As the leader of a team, Kobe and other stars sometimes criticize their teammates and right at that moment the criticized player may be upset and say something back. You may hear such things and then say to yourself, "That guy doesn't like Kobe."

The way that Kobe stepped in with Team USA and was instantly acknowledged as the leader of the team (along with Kidd) shows you how the best players in the league really feel about him. If they hated him or did not respect his game then they would not look at him as a leader.

At Monday, September 17, 2007 3:29:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anymous reggie

rick fox derek fisher, kareem rush, smush parker, robert horry all said they never liked kobe as a teamate and horry specifically saying kobe was a butthole at times he never said that about shaq at all. there too many diffrent reporters who are nuetral and not kobe haters who talk to his teamates and they said they didnt like kobe as a person. honestly on this 20,000 dollar champagne i havent heard nobody say anything about it i dont know who your source is who is dissing kobe.

and the media doesnt make up stuff on kobe they talk to teamates and people who know kobe and who are close to kobe to get there information about him, just like the reporters did i was talking about and what a coincedence both the media and reporters heard negative about kobe. no fan knows a player personally and never will, the media either you get information from people who are around the player and know him.

jason kidd was the leader on the team with kobe they been in the league the longest as well. kobe great player who earned his stripes as a player i just dont like him as a person.

At Monday, September 17, 2007 4:02:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Fisher and Kobe get along very well. You may have noticed that Fisher re-signed with the Lakers this year. During the championship years Fisher tried to be an intermediary between Shaq and Kobe.

Fox and Horry's comments dealt with specific situations that happened early in Kobe's career, not their overall feeling about playing with Kobe. If two people work together for nine months out of the year do you expect them to never once have cross words with each other? Larry Bird and Dr. J threw punches at each other in a 1984 game but afterwards Bird said that he and his brothers had fights sometimes but it didn't mean they didn't like each other.

Rush is a stiff. Is he even in the league anymore? Smush is a malcontent who feuded all year with Jackson, the coach who rescued him from playing in the D-League. Let's see how well Smush gets along with Shaq, Wade and Riley this year before we take too seriously anything he says about Kobe.

The champagne story was played up big time on ESPN, among other media platforms.

Guess what? I have talked to Kobe and his teammates and his opponents and I have personally seen him interacting with them. What I have seen and experienced does not match what you describe.

"The media doesn't make stuff up on Kobe."

Sadly, the media has "made up stuff" on more serious issues than how many friends Kobe has--or maybe you did not notice the numerous reporting scandals involving award winning writers like Jayson Blair and Jack Kelley.


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