Lakers' Bryant crosses fuzzy line separating hard-nosed from dirty
Yes, yes he is.
There, how that's for instant gratification? Lots of columns would require you to plow through 800 to 1,000 words before revealing their conclusion, offering up all sorts of on-one-hands and on-the-other-hands in the meantime, holding the fundamental question at arm's length to ponder and study from several angles, leading to something namby-pamby and utterly unsatisfying.
Not here. I'm coming with the good stuff right up top: Kobe Bryant is a dirty player.
Not definitive enough for you? OK, then let the record show that Kobe Bean Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers is the eighth most dirty player in the NBA. Except for occasional periods when he is its 23rd most dirty player, usually during quirks in the regular season schedule during which
Hmm. Maybe that's
Is it dirty to bend rules or do you need to actually break them? Does being dirty require that you inflict some sort of physical pain on an opponent or is it enough to hold a guy's jersey or propel yourself backward in a flop more outrageous than any of
If a defender nudges his knee into the thigh of the ball handler with the intent and result of having that man's knee bump into the ball to create a turnover, is that dirty?
C'mon, elbows to the throat, of the sort Bryant splayed back at
So how much of being dirty requires one also to be sneaky? Is dirty another way of saying "physical in the first degree," in which there is definite intent -- malice aforethought, as it were -- brought to what, in the flow of a basketball game, really is a series of ever-changing, exhausting moments of passion and exertion? Let's put it this way: What's dirtier? Throwing an elbow to get a guy off your back as you both grab at a rebound, or stepping underneath a jump shooter so he lands on your size 15? Jabbing a quick rabbit punch at someone who brushes by while cutting through the lane, or reminding yourself to do it in the second half when the same situation arises?
Funny, but someone who admits to being a dirty player or at least to committing a dirty play somehow doesn't seem as dirty as someone who does it yet claims to be clean. As in
So, was Bryant's elbow on Artest as dirty as
Martin's forearm shove that sent
Repeat offenses make this easy, too. And let's be clear, Bryant is a serial transgressor. He has been accused constantly of little nasties in his physical contact with opponents, as payback or otherwise. He has been caught on video numerous times and even held accountable by the league on more than a few occasions:
-- In April 2000, Bryant received a one-game suspension for retaliating and throwing a punch at New York Knicks guard
-- Bryant got suspended for two games in March 2002 after throwing a punch at Indiana's
-- In December 2005, an elbow to Memphis swingman
-- Within the first six weeks of the 2006-07 season, Bryant was suspended twice (one game each) for flailing his shooting arm into the faces of San Antonio's
That last stretch, capped in March 2007 when Bryant was assessed a flagrant 1 foul for elbowing Philadelphia's
Still, Bryant is a special case as a Hall of Fame-worthy performer, one of the NBA's top two or three talents, dragging around allegations of dirty play. This stuff isn't just measured on a 1-to-10 scale, with squeaky clean at one end and nefarious at the other. Even a graph with players plotted in the various quadrants -- one axis representing clean-dirty, the other axis capturing the more tricky spectrum of soft-tough -- isn't sufficient. There's a third dimension required, allowing for the range between truly great players and those who might only be able to stay employed in the league by deploying a dirty bag of tricks. There's
The NBA isn't the NHL, but to me there is a difference between acting the thug and being
At that point, the only unsavory aspect, even unmanly, is when the star knows he will be getting the benefit of most doubts from the referees and the league. Then it's like Orr wearing a face shield while dishing out retribution. Or Bryant lipping off at
That's why we can conclude that Bryant is, indeed, a dirty player. But we also can conclude that he is not the dirtiest player in L.A. -- that would be