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The Inside Track | T.J. Simers

You Can Hate the Player, But Don't Hate His Game

January 24, 2006|T.J. Simers

It was an extraordinary night, all right, Kobe Bryant scoring 81 points and hugging Phil Jackson.

The next morning I was listening to Colin Cowherd's radio show on 710 AM, and although I get paid by another station to work with the daughter on Sundays, it's not nearly enough to begin my day listening to "Mancow's Morning Madhouse" on 570 AM.

Cowherd paid homage to Bryant, but then began talking about a titillating story in GQ that listed the Top 10 Most Hated Athletes in sports -- according to the athletes' peers.

I'd hate anyone to put together a list of the Top 10 Most Hated Sportswriters, because I think you know who would finish on top, but just for the record, I love Plaschke.

Cowherd began at No. 10, starting with a tennis player, and that's tough to argue because I don't know anyone who likes tennis players. No. 9 was A.J. Pierzynski, the White Sox catcher who played an umpire and the Los Angeles Angels for fools.

"Google the phrase 'clubhouse cancer' and the first two results will be stories about Pierzynski," GQ reported, and so I gave it a try, and the magazine was correct, also noting in the Google search that one of the newest Dodgers, Kenny Lofton, has a desire to no longer be known as a "clubhouse cancer."

Maybe he feels he can't compete with Jeff Kent.

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PHIL MICKELSON finished eighth on the GQ list, and although he might be a favorite of the fans and folks who are out of shape, his fellow golfers apparently consider him a fraud. If that's what it takes to make the list, then I wonder why Garret Anderson didn't make it?

The Sacramento Kings' Bonzi Wells was next, followed by a fisherman, which tells me some GQ writer took a fishing vacation and needed an excuse to write the trip off, so he added a fisherman to the list.

When it came to No. 5, Cowherd glossed over it, 81 points apparently making the telling case today that maybe Kobe Bryant should be loved rather than hated.

Funny thing, that has always been Bryant's theory too, believing the more he scores and dominates the game of basketball, the more folks will come to love him once again.

If the reaction of adoring fans in Staples Center is any indication, he's right, and who cares what his jealous peers might think of him?

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FORMER NBA player and ESPN analyst Greg Anthony, speaking for those jealous players, though, told the magazine, "I'd be the first to tell you that Kobe has not helped himself with a lot of what's gone on. He's never been the type to do things that would endear him to his teammates."

Obviously he's not taking into account Kobe, the changed man. Sure it's true that he scored 62 points recently without recording an assist, but he went out of his way while scoring 81 to pass twice to teammates for assists. And some people think he hogs the ball.

Anthony said NBA players complain all the time about Kobe being selfish, the same players, I presume who've been assigned to cover Kobe, undoubtedly hoping he passes the ball so he doesn't make them look bad.

Bryant scored the Lakers' final 23 points against Toronto, and although some might misconstrue that as being selfish, you can see what happens when he doesn't shoot. He graciously allowed his teammates to take four shots in the fourth quarter, and just as you might expect, three of them were off the mark.

"Even his coach said he was uncoachable [in a book]," Anthony told GQ in still making the case that Bryant is hated. "If your coach is saying it, you can rest assured the players are saying it."

Maybe his peers do hate him, but more and more the fans are chanting, "MVP," another reminder that fans usually measure who they love the most by who puts on the best show.

And so if Bryant is going to regain his image as a superstar, which then makes him a "good guy" in the minds of most fans who think talent equals likability, then it doesn't make sense for Bryant to listen to his peers or his coach, for that matter, and become the team player.

Given the incredible show-stopping way he's playing now, I've got to believe the fans would not only hate him for passing the ball to Kwame Brown, but he'd hate himself for doing it.

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OBVIOUSLY, TERRELL Owens finished No. 1 as the top-hated athlete, followed by Barry Bonds, Curt Schilling and Kurt Busch.

Besides the top 10 most hated, GQ offered a list of runner-ups, beginning with Kent, which has to be a blow to Mr. Chuckles, who works so hard to make everyone dislike him. I guess, like me, some discovered it was an act.

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WHEN KOBE says scoring 81 points was "not even in my dreams," I believe him. He probably dreamed more than once, though, about scoring 101 points.

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ONE FINAL thought on this Antonio Davis-jumping-into-the-stands-to-save-his-wife situation. I think it goes without saying now that a man should never take his wife to work with him.

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TODAY'S LAST word comes in e-mail from Jay Heath:

"You are an LA columnist and all you do is bash the Dodgers.... I guess T.J. stands for The Joke, and as a human being, you are a joke.... I'm sure you have heard this a number of times, [but] you are the sorriest piece of trash I have ever had the displeasure of reading."

Most folks read the paper before tossing it in the trash, but to each his own.

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T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Simers, go to latimes.com/simers.

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