By Ben Golliver
Somebody please inform Kobe Bryant that he plays at the Staples Center and not in the middle of the Mojave Desert.
Surely you've noticed Bryant chewing on his jersey during games, as in the video above, which shows him munching on the neckline of his purple and gold uniform as he prepares to launch a late-game jumper over Clippers forward Matt Barnes.
So why does he do this? The Los Angeles Times put that question to Bryant.
He will be remembered, of course, for being one of the game's greats, willing to eat your young, or his own jersey to win.
"It's disgusting, but my father taught me when your mouth gets dry, just suck the sweat out of your own jersey," he says. "There's no bravado to any of it; it's just a disgusting little trick."
Bryant's father, Joe "Jellybean" Bryant, spent nearly a decade playing in the NBA before continuing his professional career overseas and coaching everywhere from Japan to Thailand. Maybe the "little trick" of recycling one's own fluids made sense at one of the far-flung locales during that long basketball journey, if potable water wasn't always at the ready. In the NBA, though, a cup of fluids is never more than a few feet or a few minutes away, especially late in games, when stoppages of play slow everything down to a crawl.
I'm not buying that there's "no bravado" in this, given that Bryant is bravado defined, from his chin juts, to his swagger-y jogging after an impossible fallaway jumper, to his scathing post-game one-liners, to his endlessly ambitious shot selection and insatiable appetite for the ball during game-deciding sequences. Michael Jordan had trouble keeping his tongue inside of his mouth and his heir apparent can't seem to keep his jersey out of his mouth. This is a perfect flourish in an already impeccable narrative.
The jersey chew winds up coming off as one part idiosyncrasy, one part comforting habit, one part intimidation tactic and one part "I'm a superstar, whatever random thing I do will get talked about and I know it." Taken together, it's all a perfect setup to an elaborate advertising campaign centered on Bryant's realization that Vitaminwater tastes significantly better than human sweat.
Hat tip: SB Nation | Video via YouTuber user nbaus3030