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Lakers' Kobe Bryant gets his well-deserved due

Jeff Van Gundy talks of media critics who don't praise Kobe as one of the best to play the game, but the columnist can't figure out to whom the broadcaster is referring.

June 15, 2010|T.J. Simers

I'm at Staples Center, but I'm watching the Lakers on TV.

I'm sick, a cough, no voice — so I cannot even join in on the "MVP" chants, but if I sat in the arena it would be next to Plaschke, who cannot afford to get sick knowing the value of what he brings to the country every day on "Around the Horn."

So I'm in the Chick Hearn Media Room, listening to Jeff Van Gundy, and getting sicker by the minute.

The game has just started and Van Gundy is on a major rant about what a great player Kobe Bryant is — like everyone doesn't know Kobe Bryant is a great player.

But he's adamant. "Trust me," he says.

It's amazing how authoritative someone can sound when stating the obvious. Worked for Jack Haley for awhile, as I recall, but Van Gundy goes too far.

Now I realize the Celtics stink so he has to kill time, but he makes it sound as if he's the only one out there who knows Kobe is great, claiming there are media critics out there "who just don't want to give this guy his due."

But he will, of course, and if the Lakers need a coach to replace Phil Jackson, I'm sure Kobe would want someone who is on record giving him his due. Consider it done.

As for these media critics, I was curious who these muckrakers might be.

I had pretty much read everything written after Game 5, but I had no idea who Van Gundy was talking about. Everyone seemed to be praising Bryant for his incredible play in the third quarter. I even read Plaschke, and he seemed to rip everyone but Kobe.

But Van Gundy was still sputtering about how Kobe doesn't get praised enough around here, and thinks anyone who says Kobe doesn't trust his teammates, well, "that's a joke."

From what I could tell, no one had suggested such a thing. It's true most Lakers' fans don't trust Kobe's teammates, but as for media critics, I don't know of anyone writing such nonsense.

OK, one. Columnist Adrian Wojnarowski, writing for under the headline, "Lakers wither under Kobe's glare," and citing some unidentified witness, suggested Kobe went to the locker room after Game 5 screaming angry at his teammates.

He seemed to be the only one who talked to this unidentified witness, and while we might have felt better had he described him as a "reliable" witness, the issue here isn't whether Wojnarowski trusts his witnesses.

I'll admit I have an issue with Wojnarowski writing at one point in his column that "Bryant confessed to Yahoo! Sports," as if he slid open a little door and Bryant poured out his soul to him.

If that was true, I would think there would be no need for a witness, reliable or not, and Kobe would've just told Wojnarowski whether he yelled at his teammates.

If Kobe did yell at his teammates, it might be titillating, but beyond that, Wojnarowski seemed to be making the point the Celtics seemed to really rely on each other, while asking, how fragile are the Lakers now?

Seemed like a reasonable question until the Lakers exploded in Game 6 — all of Kobe's trusty teammates helping out in a big way, but still nothing to ignite a Van Gundy rant.

I don't know how you people do it, watching the game and listening to someone get all worked up about nothing.

I'd like to give the guy the benefit of the doubt, but for the life of me I'm still trying to figure out who these media critics are Van Gundy uses as an excuse to launch into a defense of Kobe.

I know on Monday I was writing how much I adored Kobe, and that was after a horrific defeat, beginning the second paragraph, "I just love Our Ball Hog…"

And then I pulled a Van Gundy, and went on and on and on extolling Our Ball Hog's greatness, scoring 23 straight points, going one on five against a team like the Celtics, while demonstrating his competitiveness and asking to guard Paul Pierce.

"That performance in the third quarter was chilling," I wrote, and I don't recall praising one of our local athletes as much as I did there. I know, I was almost too mushy there.

Yet Van Gundy was at it again in the fourth quarter, suggesting a vote for anyone other than Bryant as Finals' MVP — even if the Celtics had won Game 6 — would be dumb.

Tough to start an argument when no one disagrees. Who would you want taking every shot other than Our Ball Hog? That makes him the obvious MVP, the guy who scores the most.

He can make all the shots, always trusting his teammates to rebound should he miss, and while I know I came off sounding like a homer here the other day in gushing about Our Ball Hog, it never seems like enough for some people.

TODAY'S LAST word comes in email from J.D., class of '99:

"Your latest column struck me as especially idiotic, which for you is saying a lot. Contrary to what you and your ilk may believe, USC has lost absolutely no respect. When Trojans face adversity, they circle the wagons. I doubt you could ever wrap your head around that thought."

Circle the BMWs maybe, but wagons?

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