Kobe Bryant is probably used to hearing jeers and taunts from opposing fans, but when the new (truncated) 2011-2012 season begins, he will face a whole new chapter of verbal abuse.
Following reports that his wife of ten years Vanessa is filing for divorce, citing dozens of incidents of adultery, fans outside of Los Angeles will likely have it in for Kobe again. While he is widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players in history (a few would actually anoint him as the best ever, even above Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain), Kobe Bryant’s messy and disastrous personal life elicits nothing but derision and contempt.
Appearing on the ‘Tonight Show with Jay Leno’ a few nights ago, former NBA star Charles Barkley weighed in on what Bryant will have to confront this year.
I really like Kobe; I wish him all the best, Barkley said. But of course the fans are cruel. They're going to be shouting stuff at him. He's going to have to deal with that... but he's so strong mentally, I think he'll be fine.
That doesn’t sound like Kobe will be sailing in smooth waters however.
Still, the chorus of abuse Kobe will be subjected to will pale in comparison to what he faced in 2003. Back then, he was charged with sexually assaulting a girl in an exclusive Colorado medical/rehabilitation facility. Moreover, up until that incident, Bryant had a relatively spotless reputation with respect to his personal life, which made the rape allegations all the more shocking and disturbing.
Now, after eight long years and a complete re-evaluation of Bryant by the public, a divorce doesn’t seem all that scandalous, neither do allegations of promiscuity and adultery. This is Hollywood after all.
The Lakers have other problems as well that Kobe may also feel burdened by. They are aging and failed to trade for young superstar Chris Paul in a deal that was vetoed by NBA Commissioner David Stern. The Lakers also have a new coach in Mike Brown who might take some time to find his footing and rhythm with his star-crossed team.
Kobe himself is aging and has had a raft of injuries. He is only 33 years old, but has been playing in the NBA for almost half his life. He is a very old 33.
A columnist named Josh Martin recently opined in the Los Angeles Times: “Don't worry about Kobe Bryant's divorce. Don't worry about who, if anyone, the Black Mamba [Kobe] has been fooling around with on the side, whether it be Kim Kardashian's gal pal or some figment of the paparazzi's imagination.”
Martin added: :If you have any anxiety about Kobe at all, direct it toward his achy knees, his arthritic fingers, his relationship with new head coach Mike Brown and his ability to hold together a roster that's been through quite a bit of change already and may shift even more dramatically in the weeks and months to come. As far as anyone knows, his situation with Vanessa is already settled. They've filed the proper papers, come to terms on all the major issues (financials included) and will be officially ex after the mandatory six-month cooling off period comes to a close.”