When Kobe was a free agent 10 years ago, he said, “I could see myself playing for the Clippers.”
That doesn’t necessarily make Kobe a hypocrite. For one, he didn’t sign with the Clippers, and it’s possible Sterling’s ownership was the reason. It’s also possible Kobe learned more about Sterling since, though Sterling’s racism has long-been alleged.
But it’s also possible Kobe is saying one thing now when he would have done the opposite in a different situation – and maybe that’s a reasonable way to handle two different situations.
It’s a question with no easy answer. How should people handle working for someone whose worldview doesn’t align with their own?
Kobe has a large contract with the Lakers, and there’s no chance of them trading him to Los Angeles’ other team. He’s stable now.
When he was a free agent and his future was more tenuous, maybe playing for Sterling wasn’t so unappealing if it came with other advantages.
I have no doubt Kobe, even if his previous comments on race have caused confusion, abhors what Sterling allegedly said. I’m sure he’d prefer not to play for an owner like that, and now that there are no advantages to doing so, Kobe no longer must bite his tongue.
But when the Clippers could offer him the best combination of winning, money, location and any other factor Kobe deemed important… should he have let Sterling set back his professional aspirations? That isn’t fair to Kobe.
It’s why LeBron James, who also came out strongly against Sterling today, also entertained the Clippers as a free agent option. It’s why Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Doc Rivers and the rest aren’t wrong for working for the Clippers now. They shouldn’t necessarily deny themselves professional opportunities in very a very competitive field with very limited openings.
So, today, Kobe can truthfully say he wouldn’t play for Sterling – even if it was a legitimate option for him 10 years ago.