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A lack of good judgment comes back to bite Kobe

August 07, 2003|by DAN KAUFFMAN

There are two things I know about the sexual assault case against Kobe Bryant:

n Only two people will ever really know whether Bryant committed a crime. So please don't ask me if he is or is not guilty. I don't know.

n Bryant's judgment was, without question, flawed.

Yes, I've heard the arguments from people who say the judgment of the alleged 19-year-old victim was flawed, as well. That may or may not be true.

What is true is this: The victim isn't an NBA superstar, she isn't a millionaire, she isn't famous around the globe and she doesn't have endorsement deals riding on her image. Bryant is, is, is and does.

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So what on Earth was Kobe thinking when he went into a room alone with a 19-year-old?

The best-case scenario is Bryant has sex with her (which, let's be honest, that's what he was in the room to do), leaves Eagle, Colo., and nothing comes of it.

This stuff happens all the time. It's not just an NBA thing, either. Rich, handsome, professional athletes can pretty much have any woman (and all the women) they want if they so choose, and a lot of them do.

The worst-case scenario is the one Bryant is living out right now.

In the court of public opinion, Bryant is already guilty. And while adultery isn't something you can do time in jail for, you can certainly be tried for and convicted of it by Corporate America.

Kobe completely blew his image here. He's almost certainly going to lose millions in endorsements, not just from companies which choose to sever ties with him, but also companies which would have used him to promote products in the future, but will now choose not to.

Is sex really worth this, Kobe? Is the best-case scenario good enough to risk the worst-case one?

I'm sure Bryant already knows the answer. Unfortunately, it's a little late now.

n Speaking of NBA players and endorsement deals, does anyone else find it a little amazing that the most important selling point for a basketball player these days is "street cred?"

Street credibility is a term companies - mostly of the sneaker and sports apparel variety - use for pro basketball players who are popular amongst inner-city players who hoop it up at neighborhood courts. Street ball, as it is commonly referred to, has become its own niche sport, with shows such as "He Got Game" on MTV and the one featuring AND-1 touring players - many of whom failed to stick with an NBA team - on ESPN and ESPN2.

"Street cred" is what could make Jason Williams, the Memphis Grizzlies' flashy point guard, more money on the endorsement trail than, say, reigning two-time league MVP Tim Duncan.

This is because Williams is a "look at me!" player capable of behind-the-back passes and fancy dribbling that can show up defenders - in other words, the things that get you on Sportscenter and are hugely popular in street ball - while Duncan is not.

All Duncan does is nearly post a quadruple-double in an NBA Finals game, win two rings and play the most fundamentally sound ball we've seen from a center in a decade.

I don't mean to single these two players out. Their styles were easy to compare. I don't know how much either guy makes in endorsements.

All I'm saying is I find it a little funny that Williams can be thought of as a more attractive pitchman for companies than Duncan.

Maybe it's just me.




Dan Kauffman is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Thursday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131 ext. 7520, or by e-mail at kauffman@herald-mail.com

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