Curt Schilling, Kobe Bryant and Biased Media CoverageYou probably have seen or heard about Curt Schilling's blog post that talks about Kobe Bryant's demeanor during Laker timeouts in game two of the Finals. Here is the excerpt that has been most frequently quoted and discussed:
What I do know is what I got to see up close and hear, was unexpected. From the first tip until about 4 minutes left in the game I saw and heard this guy bitch at his teammates. Every TO he came to the bench pissed, and a few of them he went to other guys and yelled about something they weren’t doing, or something they did wrong. No dialog about “hey let’s go, let’s get after it” or whatever. He spent the better part of 3.5 quarters pissed off and ranting at the non-execution or lack of, of his team. Then when they made what almost was a historic run in the 4th, during a TO, he got down on the floor and basically said ‘Let’s f’ing go, right now, right here” or something to that affect. I am not making this observation in a good or bad way, I have no idea how the guys in the NBA play or do things like this, but I thought it was a fascinating bit of insight for me to watch someone in another sport who is in the position of a team leader and how he interacted with his team and teammates. Watching the other 11 guys, every time out it was high fives and “Hey nice work, let’s get after it” or something to that affect. He walked off the floor, obligatory skin contact on the high five, and sat on the bench stone faced or pissed off, the whole game. Just weird to see another sport and how it all works. I would assume that’s his style and how he plays and what works for him because when I saw the leader board for scoring in the post season his name sat up top at 31+ a game, can’t argue with that. But as a fan I was watching the whole thing, Kobe, his teammates and then the after effects of conversations. He’d yell at someone, make a point, or send a message, turn and walk away, and more than once the person on the other end would roll eyes or give a ‘whatever dude’ look.
If you did not go to Schilling's blog and read the whole post then you probably did not see the part that the media left out:
Let me reiterate that this is from a complete basketball newbie, so for all I know this could be exactly how these guys play this game and interact with each other.
So, while Schilling frankly admits that he does not know whether or not Bryant's actions were typical--either for Bryant or for NBA stars in general--the media intentionally frames this story as "World Series hero Curt Schilling calls out Bryant as a bad leader."
Baseball is a slow, leisurely game. There is plenty of dead time to sit around and calmly talk about things--which is not to say that we have not seen more than a few heated dugout conversations, including a recent one involving Schilling's Red Sox. In contrast, basketball is a fast paced game that only has short breaks in the action. There is not time to have a half hour discussion in which you politely ask your teammates to play harder and be more focused. Anyone who actually follows the NBA knows very well that most superstars will get right in the faces of their teammates if they think that those players are not performing up to par. We've seen Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and many others do that. Kobe Bryant demands excellence from himself in his workouts, his practice sessions and during games and he asks no less of his teammates. That, more than anything else, is the real source of his conflict with Shaquille O'Neal when they were teammates, because O'Neal has never had that kind of fire, intensity or work ethic. This new Lakers team that has been built around Bryant mainly consists of young players who look up to Bryant for leadership and direction. Pardon my French here, but in the first round of the playoffs, Denver Nuggets forward Kenyon Martin said, "Pissed off is better than pissed on." In other words, it is better to get angry, be aggressive and act with a purpose than, well, get pissed on. That is the message that Bryant was conveying to his teammates--and the best proof that his leadership worked is that he led the Lakers to a fourth quarter rally that very nearly stole game two from the Celtics. This season, Bryant has generally toned down some of the more demonstrative aspects of his leadership but this was a case when his teammates really needed to understand just how poorly they were playing and just how dissatisfied he was with their effort. I did not see any instances in which his teammates "rolled their eyes" at Bryant and based on Lakers games that I have been to I have yet to see that reaction, so I suspect Schilling misinterpreted or misread their body language. As he frankly admitted, he is a "complete basketball newbie," which makes one wonder why his comments are getting so much play. It is interesting that if you closely read what Schilling wrote he says that he is making no judgment about Bryant but every mention of Schilling's post that I have seen portrays his comments as being critical of Bryant. This is a classic example of people hearing what they want to hear and believing what they want to believe as opposed to examining an issue with a critical mind.
posted by David Friedman @ 6:58 PM