by Bob Ingram
When he was a senior at Lower Merion High School, I remember watching Kobe Bryant and his point guard working out at the Kaiser Jewish Community Center in Wynnewood. Alley-oop pass after alley-oop pass, Kobe soared for slam after slam. He led Lower Merion to the state title, a man playing against boys. He took the then-star Brandy to his prom and went right to the NBA, bypassing college.
His career with the Lakers there is storied and polarizing. He won five championship rings and was Michael Jordan lite. He also sabotaged at least one coach and treated his less talented teammates like the supporting players he thought they were.
Two seasons ago he tore his Achilles tendon and has never really been the monster he was. Now he’s decided to create his own legacy with the documentary, “Kobe Bryant’s Muse,” which he produced and which debuted on Showtime recently.
It is almost laughable what a self-centered jerk he shows himself to be, if you know anything at all about him. He’s created his own hagiography. It borders on disgusting. I didn’t know that much whitewash existed.
Much of the footage is Kobe in a black tee-shirt looking directly into the camera and spouting a lot of drivel about hard work and grit and passion and the will to excel and win, win, win. I didn’t realize that he was so infected with New Age diarrhea. He acts like he really believes all this claptrap. He states at one point that Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson are his muses. Bullshit. Kobe is his own muse.
The film follows his Achilles surgery and rehab as if he was St. Joan of the Cross, and like no athlete has ever worked harder to come back. There is a sort of sacred halo around these segments.
“Kobe Bryant’s Muse” is notable mainly for what it omits or glosses over. His father, Joe “Jelly Bean” Bryant, ex-La Salle great and eight-year NBA vet, took the family to Europe when he played out his career there, and Kobe mainly moans about how lonely he was there and how all he had was his basketball and his love for the game to survive. Never mentioned are the later ruptures in his relationship with his father and how they finally reached a rapprochement.
In July, 2003, Kobe Bryant was accused of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman who worked at a resort he was staying at in Edwards, Colorado. The woman refused to testify and the case was dropped after Bryant apologized without admitting his guilt.
In “Kobe Bryant’s Muse” this episode is dismissed as a vague “mistake,” and Kobe moans about what a tribulation it was for him and his family. Not mentioned is the fact that he gave his wife a diamond ring as big as the Ritz by way of apology.
Much of the film is like a highlight reel of Kobe Bryant’s genius for the game. He never misses. Every dunk is bodacious, many punctuated by the screams that have become de rigueur in basketball at all levels now.
In China, Kobe Bryant is indeed a venerated saint. He travels there frequently and has helped to make basketball the rage there. There is no mention of that in “Muse,” only Kobe yadda-yadda-ing in his black tee shirt. I saw a clip of Kobe and a Chinese kid playing one-on-one in front of thousands of screaming fans, and when the kid does all right, Kobe won’t let him off the court until he has humiliated him. That is much closer to the real Kobe than “Muse.”
To me, the best part of “Kobe Bryant’s Muse” was his playing with his wife and two beautiful daughters while the credits rolled. At the end.
The dude has tunnel vision focused mainly on himself and calls it a muse and expects the world to quietly buy it.
Not here, baby.
Bob Ingram, who lived in this area for 20 years but now lives at the Jersey shore, is the author of “Sun Songs: Wildwood Stories,” and he has been part of the Chestnut Hill Book Festival. Ingram, a writer/journalist/editor for 45 years, has written for virtually every major newspaper and magazine in Philadelphia and South Jersey. “Sun Songs” can be purchased through amazon.com, list price $10.95.