On Sunday evening, Kobe Bryant announced his retirement, effective at the end of this season. Pretty much everyone in the NBA world has weighed in since then with well wishes and memories, including Kevin Durant, who blasted the media for, um, pointing out how bad Bryant has been this year:
I’ve been disappointed this year because you guys treated him like s—. He’s a legend, and all I hear is about how bad he’s playing, how bad he’s shooting. It’s time for him to hang it up. You guys treated one of our legends like s—, and I didn’t really like it. So hopefully, now you can start being nice to him now that he decided to retire after this year. It was sad the way he was getting treated, in my opinion.
One person who doesn’t wish the media would be nicer to Kobe is Kobe himself. Via ESPN.com’s Baxter Holmes:
“Listen, I don’t budge on that stuff,” Bryant said Tuesday after his Los Angeles Lakers lost to the Philadelphia 76ers 103-91 at the Wells Fargo Center. “I appreciate the good stuff. I appreciate the bad stuff. I would never whine, ‘Oh, you’re being too hard on me, please stop.’ That wouldn’t even sound like me.”
Bryant added, “I sincerely appreciate the bad as much as I do the good, and hopefully the players coming up now understand that — understand that it’s a journey, it’s a cycle, you can’t take things personal. You’ve got to roll with it. It’s all good.”
It’s good that Bryant has this attitude, because the criticism of his play this season hasn’t been unfair at all. There’s no positive way to spin what he’s been doing on the court this year, and even his most ardent defenders have to admit that he’s been abjectly terrible. That doesn’t diminish anything he’s accomplished in his Hall of Fame career, or mean that he isn’t one of the greatest players of all time. He can be a legend who has accomplished and meant more than most other players in NBA history and be a bad player this season. Both of those things can be true, and are. And if Bryant is OK with the way he’s being covered in his final season, maybe everybody else should be too.