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February 13, 2002

Booing Kobe? I don't get it
By Dan Patrick

I have to give those Philadelphia sports fans credit. They are consistent. They have booed Santa Claus. They have booed Mike Schmidt. They have thrown batteries at J.D. Drew. They have booed the drafting of Donovan McNabb. They have cheered an injury to Michael Irvin. Kobe Bryant's first game as a pro was in Philadelphia and they booed him on that special night.

It's especially odd that Kobe was so unmercifully booed while playing one of the best All-Star games in NBA history.
And at the NBA All-Star game on Sunday, they booed Bryant from the time he was introduced right through until he was given the MVP trophy after the game. He has hurt them, apparently. But my problem is that I just can't see what it is that Bryant did to be treated so rudely in his hometown arena.

Bryant's father, Joe, played for the Sixers, and Kobe grew up in the area. He went to Lower Merion High School in the Philly suburbs. The high school recently retired his number and, guess what? Kobe showed up for the ceremony, with a few of his Laker teammates in tow. That's a classy thing to do and would seem to indicate that Kobe is proud of his time in the Philadelphia area and is in no way trying to distance himself.

Speaking of showing up, Bryant showed up at an All-Star news conference this weekend wearing his father's old Philadelphia 76ers uniform and talked about the city's basketball heritage. He was clearly embracing the city, which makes his rejection seem very odd. It's not like Kobe Bryant is a hard guy to like.

Kobe has been with the Los Angeles Lakers his whole career because of a draft-and-trade deal with the Charlotte Hornets. He has blossomed as an adult and as a player on the Lakers and in the city where he plays. His acceptance of L.A. is not a rejection of his roots.

Kobe Bryant
Kobe grabs a rebound, one of five, during his MVP performance.
Shaquille O'Neal was born in New Jersey and raised in Texas. Michael Jordan was born in Brooklyn. Not to criticize those guys, but they have done far less remembering of their origins than Kobe. But that's their right. And they don't get booed in those locales, either. Yet Bryant, who proclaims his Philly beginnings with pride, is booed there.

Wilt Chamberlain was traded to the Lakers but was never forgotten as a hero in Philly. They certainly didn't boo him every time he came back. But they feel they must remind Kobe that he's the enemy, even in an All-Star game. Tough place to play. It's a shame. Even Allen Iverson expressed his displeasure.

It's especially odd that Bryant was so unmercifully booed while playing one of the best All-Star games in NBA history. He joined Julius Erving as the only player to have 30 points, five rebounds and five assists in All-Star game history. His 31 points are the eighth-best in league history and the most since Jordan had 40 in 1988. Yeah, that was a good idea. Boo that kind of performance: Hometown boy comes home in NBA showcase and offers up an inspired effort. Let's make him feel bad!

Are they still annoyed he went from high school to the pros? Did that decision rub some folks the wrong way and they still aren't over it? Maybe the slight is more recent. After all, the Lakers ended the Cinderella season of last year's Philadelphia 76ers. In which case, they should be booing the Lakers as a team, not just Kobe Bryant. The whole thing dumbfounds me and strikes me as a shame.

I don't get it.

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