Kobe Bryant’s Legacy Should be Viewed Honestly and its Entirety

KobeGianna

After retiring from basketball, Kobe Bryant spent a lot of time with his family. He is pictured here with his daughter Gianna. Both were tragically killed in the helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Jan. 25.

Gayle King’s interview with Lisa Leslie and Snoop Dogg’s profanity-laced response to it brought to life to a misunderstanding of journalism and how we view the legacy of public figures 

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

The fallout over CBS Morning News host Gayle King’s interview with WNBA legend Lisa Leslie following the death of Kobe Bryant and rapper Snoop Dogg’s profanity-laced video response to it led to some really problematic responses on social media.

It also showed that there is a disconnect between many African Americans and the practice of journalism as well as the dangers of hero-worship.

During the course of what was an in-depth interview with Leslie, King asked whether Bryant’s legacy would be complicated by the rape accusation made by a young woman in Eagle, Colorado in 2003. The case was ultimately dismissed because the alleged victim refused to testify. There was ultimately a settlement reached between Bryant and the woman in civil court.

At a press conference after the settlement, Bryant issued the following apology:

“Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did. After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.”

Because Leslie answered King’s questions, which were asked in a professional manner, and also because other outlets including ESPN, the Washington Post, and the New York Daily News, had brought up the topic as well, I didn’t see any problem.

But for people like Snoop Dogg and a large number of African-Americans on social media, King went too far and caught the wrath. On platforms like Twitter and Facebook, King was accused of trying to assassinate Bryant’s legacy by the simple act of bringing up the incident. King was vilified as a race traitor who, along with close friend Oprah Winfrey, was a part of a vast conspiracy to destroy Black men. There were more than a few people who thought King’s line of questioning was immoral.

Immoral? Really?!

But the Black journalist community, myself included, defended King because what Snoop Dogg said in his video was more than just hateful.

It was wrong. And it shows that people don’t know how journalism works. While some in the media community may debate how King conducted her interview, I don’t think she had sinister intentions nor do I believe that King deserved all the hate-filled vitriol she received.

The mention of the incident by media outlets isn’t an attack on Bryant’s legacy. It’s a part of it, whether people like it or not.

From my perspective as a journalist, I’m not mad that King brought up the sexual assault allegation because it’s part of Bryant’s public record. Every major media outlet in the country reported on it at the time of the former Lakers star untimely death and ignoring it would make no sense.

That was something that a lot of people outside of journalism on my social media feed couldn’t comprehend, and on one level, I get it.

For African-American men grieving Bryant’s death, bringing up the events in Colorado felt like another attack on Black men from a society that views us with unnecessary suspicion and tends to come down harder on us when suspected of committing a crime.

We are always on double-secret probation.

But keeping reporters from doing their jobs isn’t going to stop that from being the case.

As the saga went on, Georgetown University Professor Michael Eric Dyson wound up being the voice of reason. He said what this group of mostly African American men didn’t want to hear, which was that Bryant wouldn’t have become the man he was when he died without that incident as a catalyst.

“When you notice Kobe Bryant’s trajectory from that moment on, here was a man who was deeply and profoundly committed to his wife (Vanessa Bryant),” Dyson said. “He confessed his adultery to her. He apologized in public for that as well. He went on to have four daughters with his wife and he embraced women’s sports.”

“Yes, he acknowledged that there had to be a paradigm shift in his life and he didn’t have to say that,” Dyson continued. “He evidenced that in his own life, in his own living and transformation.”

Our legacies are often shaped by the good, the bad, and the ugly. Some say that President Lyndon Johnson’s legacy on Civil Rights and the Great Society was tarnished because of the Vietnam War. I can personally look at how Michael Vick bounced back from serving time in prison for dogfighting to becoming a better football player, husband, father and an advocate against animal cruelty.

To quote the character, Troy Maxson, in August Wilson’s play, Fences: “You gotta take the crookeds with the straights.”

But you have to take all of it. Not just the part you like.

Kobe Bryant: Gone but Not Forgotten

Kobe Bryant was a Philly Legend Whose Work Ethic and Determination Made him One of the All-Time Greats

By Chris Murray 

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Kobephotobywebster

Kobe Bryant was a relentless competitor and played a ferocity that was rarely matched during his stellar NBA career. Photo by Webster Riddick.

When I heard the tragic news that former Lower Merion great and Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other people, I was in the middle of celebrating the University of Maryland’s men’s basketball team’s one-point win over the Indiana Hoosiers, a win they picked up after overcoming a six-point deficit with 1:08 left.

It was the kind of game that Bryant, known as a relentless competitor who never gave up when his team was down and always came through in the clutch, would have appreciated.

Bryant, known as the “Black Mamba,” will be remembered as one of the game’s greatest winners of All-Time. Drafted 13th overall in the NBA Draft in 1996 out of Lower Merion High School, Bryant was an 18-time All-star, a two-time NBA Finals MVP, 2008 NBA MVP, and a part of five Los Angeles Lakers championships before retiring in 2016.  He also won two Olympic Gold Medals.

Former 76ers star Julius Erving said in an ESPN documentary said Bryant was “as good as anybody that has ever played the game.”

And I think he’s absolutely right about that.

During his storied career, Bryant helped to lead the Lakers to five NBA titles, and he did it with an iron-willed swag that made him the idol of the millions. There are few athletes in the history of sports that played with his ferocity and determination. I can name guys like Michael Jordan, Roberto Clemente, Jim Brown, Frank Robinson, Joe Frazier, Pete Rose and even Allen Iverson who approached their sports with an all-out determination to win.

And yes, Bryant is a Philadelphia legend basketball on that same Philly basketball Mount Rushmore along with legends like Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving, Allen Iverson, Dawn Staley, Earl Monroe and a who’s who list of legendary players.  I’m not getting into the stupid semantics of whether he was a Philly guy or not because he played his high school at suburban Lower Merion High School.

To me, Bryant’s work ethic and dogged toughness enabled him to play through pain and play well is the epitome of being a Philly athlete. Yes, he played his high school ball in Ardmore, but make no mistake he is Philly-made, Philly strong. He was a giant among Philadelphia’s legendary star athletes.

Bryant, who once scored 81 points in a game, often reminded me of Joe Frazier or even Mike Tyson coming forward to stalk their opponent and would not rest until his opponent was vanquished. That’s what folks meant when you talked about Bryant’s “Mamba Mentality.” It was the constant determination to win by any means necessary.

As a fan of the Sixers, especially in that 2001 NBA Finals, Bryant was that nemesis that you wanted to beat because he was such a great player. Even when the Sixers were leading or hanging around the Lakers in that Series, you knew Bryant was lurking in the shadows to make the buckets that were going to bury you and your team.

After he retired from the game, Bryant was bringing to bring that “Mamba Mentality,” his all-out effort to achieve success outside of basketball. Not only did he write several books, but he also started his own media company and won an Academy Award in 2018 for Best Animated Short Film, “Dear Basketball,” which was based on a poem in 2015 after he announced his retirement from basketball.

But the real sadness from the tragedy of Kobe’s death is that we will never get to see him spend time with Gianna, who was becoming a skilled basketball player in her own right. They were on their way to a youth basketball tournament she was participating in when the crash occurred.

KobeGianna

After retiring from basketball, Kobe Bryant spent a lot of time with his daughter Gianna.

Watching images of Kobe Bryant mentoring his daughter at WNBA games along with his wife, Vanessa and three other daughters, Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3 and Capri, 7 months is the saddest thing of all.  Bryant was well on his way to becoming one of the all-time great dads of all-time, something thing he treasured more than any of his accolades in basketball.

While it may be “Mamba Out”,  Bryant’s legacy and determination will live on.

One Last Answer: AI Lifted A Generation

Allen Iverson

Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Allen Iverson speaks during induction ceremonies at Symphony Hall, Friday, Sept. 9, 2016, in Springfield, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola). Originally appeared in the Philadelphia Sunday Sun.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Allen Iverson’s induction into the National Basketball Hall of Fame last week was the culmination of the hopes and dreams of a generation of young people whose aspirations were often snuffed out before it had a chance to really to blossom into anything special.

As a basketball star and cultural icon, AI was “The Answer” in more ways than one. 

Iverson’s road to the Hall of Fame, to be sure, came from his dynamic basketball prowess. Yes, pound-for-pound he was one of the greatest little men, if not the greatest to ever lace up a pair of sneakers. Iverson’s blinding ferocity on the court against the likes of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neal made him popular players in the sport. His jersey sales rivaled that of his aforementioned contemporaries.

Between the 2001 NBA MVP Award, the scoring titles, the All-Star appearances including two MVP Awards in that game and leading an unlikely Philadelphia 76ers team on an improbable run to the 2001 NBA Finals, Iverson deserved to be in the company of the game’s legends. What he did on the court in his career was truly unforgettable.

Along with his legendary skills as a basketball, Iverson was a transcendent icon of an often misunderstood group of young people. Iverson defiantly wore his braids and tattoos much to the chagrin and distaste of the media that covered him. 

To a maligned group of young people who listened to Tupac, Biggie Smalls and Nas while they were being chastised by overly sanctimonious old heads, Iverson was their “folk” hero.  Iverson truly kept it real through the times he was right and through the times he was wrong.  To me, Iverson was the rebel that the late James Dean was to teenagers and young people of the 1950s.

Sometimes words like loyalty to the hood and never forgetting the brothers you met on the way up are not often meant or are thrown around like a punch line from a hood movie or a lyric in a rap song.

Throughout his career, Iverson took those who loved and nurtured him before he became a household name with him on his journey. Iverson was truly loyal to his friends and relatives from the Norfolk,Va.-Hampton roads area — sometimes to a fault.

During his Hall of Fame speech in Springfield, Mass., Iverson mentioned the names of all those friends and family members that put a few dollars in his pocket when he or his mom didn’t have it. That’s true loyalty and true love. That’s not just talking, that’s truly keeping it real.

For those of us here in Philly, Iverson now breathes the same air as the great basketball legends whose statures overshadow the city. As I have always said if you had to build a Mount Rushmore of Philadelphia basketball icons, you would include AI, Julius Erving, Wilt Chamberlain, Earl Monroe and John Chaney.

The memories of Iverson crossing Jordan, scoring and stepping over Tyronn Lue in the NBA Finals, outdueling Vince Carter in Game 7 of the 2001 East Conference finals will be stamped indelibly on the hearts and minds of Sixers fans everywhere.

For the young people who grew up in the midst of the crack epidemic and mass incarceration, Iverson was the Answer those who hoped to make out of their predicament whether it was jail or just the devastation of poverty.

Like Tupac and Biggie, Iverson wasn’t afraid to keep it real and tell his truth for a misrepresented generation of young people.  And so now the final Answer is … a Hall of Famer.

2014: A Year of Black Athletes and Social Justice-Stand Up and Protest Defeats Shut Up and Play

“Civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights: it’s all wrong! Call in the cavalry to disrupt this perception of freedom gone wild! God damn it, first one wants freedom, then the whole damn world wants freedom! …Nostalgia…that’s we want….” Gil-Scot Heron.
By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and The Philadelphia Sunday Sun

 

Athletes from football and basketball are donning, "I Can't Breathe" Tee-Shirts to show support for protesters across. Photo by CBS Lov

Athletes from football and basketball are donning, “I Can’t Breathe” Tee-Shirts to show support for protesters across. Photo by CBS Lov

PHILADELPHIA—When I look back on 2014, I’ll remember it as a year where sports and social justice issues intersected and African American athletes refused to “just shut up and play.”

From challenging outdated stereotypes of sexual orientation to throwing a spotlight on issues such as police brutality, Black athletes decided that their membership in the Black Community was more important than endorsement deals or anything else designed to induce their silence.

“I Can’t Breathe…”

(from left to right):  Stedman  Bailey, Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, Chris Givens and Kenny Britt expressed their solidarity with activists protesting against the no indictment ruling in favor of Ferguson police officer who killed 18-year-old Michael Brown.  Photo by Huffington Post.

(from left to right): Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, Chris Givens and Kenny Britt expressed their solidarity with activists protesting against the no indictment ruling in favor of Ferguson police officer who killed 18-year-old Michael Brown. Photo by Huffington Post.

The failure of Grand Juries in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City to indict police officers in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and the deaths of Tamir Rice, John Crawford and Akai Gurley sparked protests against police brutality coast-to-coast.

Prominent African-American athletes like NBA stars LeBron James, Kobe Bryant joined Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush and Cleveland Browns cornerback Johnson Bademosi in sporting “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts to express their solidarity with the demonstrators.

But the athletes protest definitely did not come without pushback. When members of the St. Louis Rams came out for a game with their hands up days after the Grand Jury decision in Ferguson was announced, the police union in St. Louis demanded an apology (and suspensions from the NFL) from the players, a tactic also employed Cleveland’s police union for the “I Can’t Breathe” shirt worn by Bademosi and a shirt calling for justice for Tamir Rice  and John Crawford worn by Browns wide receiver Andrew Hankins. Rather than righteous indignation, the police union’s moves vilifying looked more like intimidation.

Of course, more than a few more sports talk pundits and conservative talk radio hosts came out in an unveiled assault of bigotry against the football players.

To their credit, the players and the League refused to bow to the demands of the police unions and loud-mouth conservative talking heads. Police officers, whose salaries are paid by our taxes, are not above the law.

Bryant reminded those who tried to shout the athletes down that they live in the United States of America:

“The beauty of our country lies in its democracy. I think if we ever lose the courage to be able to speak up for things that we believe in, I really think we really lose the value that our country stands for.”

Tommie Smith, John Carlos, Muhammad Ali and Vera Caslavska, the Czech gymnast who protested the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia by turning away from the Soviet flag during the medal ceremony—can definitely understand what today’s athletes are experiencing.

Michael Sam Comes Out.

After being picked in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft, 2013 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, Michael Sam shares a kiss with his lover, Vito Commisano on camera. The video caused a social firestorm.

After being picked in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft, 2013 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, Michael Sam shares a kiss with his lover, Vito Commisano on camera. The video caused a social firestorm.

It wasn’t so much that former University of Missouri star Michael Sam announced to the world that he was gay prior to the NFL Draft, it was the long kiss he gave to his lover Vito Commissano on hearing the news he was draft by the St. Louis Rams that threw the social media world into a frenzy.

Most of the vitriol centered on the perception that Sam was trying to impose his “gay lifestyle” upon us heterosexual folks. But while Sam ended up getting cut from the Rams and releases by the Dallas Cowboys practice squad, his presence reminded us that, in the words of gay rights activists, gay athletes are “here, they’re queer…”

And society needs to get used to it…because it’s difference that makes us stronger.

LA Clippers Protest Racist Remarks by Donald Sterling.

LA Clippers protest racist remarks by  thent team owner Donald Sterling. Photo by Indystar.com

LA Clippers protest racist remarks by thent team owner Donald Sterling. Photo by Indystar.com

The NBA was a hotbed of social justice action in 2014.

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling found himself in hot water when a recording of a conversation he had with his bi-lfriend V. Stiviano hit the TMZ airwaves.

In this conversation Sterling, who was hit with a record-breaking fine by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development for housing discrimination based on race, chastised Stiviano for bringing Black people to Clippers games and taking an Instagram photo with NBA Hall-of-Famer and owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Magic Johnson.

Once the tape hit the street, Clippers players including All-Stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin held a 45 minute meeting to discuss a response prior to the team’s playoff game against the Golden State Warriors that night.

Although there was talk of the Clippers boycotting the game to get back at Sterling, the players opted to protest by removing their warm-up shirts and leaving them at center court and wearing black arm or wrist bands and black socks instead, something that players from the Houston Rockets and the Portland Trailblazers also did to show solidarity.

It was the first real test of new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s leadership. When he banned Sterling from the league for life and forced him to sell the team, everyone agreed Silver had passed it.

But Sterling got $2 billion out of the deal, so you’ll have to forgive me for thinking that in this case racism, like crime, paid.

When “You Throw Like a Girl” Became a Compliment

Mo'ne Davis' 70 mile-per-hour fast ball led the Taney Dragons of South Philadelphia to the Little League World Series.

Mo’ne Davis’ 70 mile-per-hour fast ball led the Taney Dragons of South Philadelphia to the Little League World Series.

Thanks to pitcher Mo’Ne Davis of South Philly’s Taney Dragons, 2014 became the year we all wanted to “throw like a girl”.

The 13-year-old with the 70-mile per hour fastball led the Dragons to the Little League World Series, a first for a Philadelphia team. Mo’Ne also became the first girl to pitch a shutout in a LLWS game, and scored the cover of Sports Illustrated, threw wiffle balls at Jimmy Fallon with battery mate Scott Bandura and met one of her idols, Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw.

Although the Dragons finished 2-2 during their trip to Williamsport, they, and the Jackie Robinson West team from Chicago that went on to become U.S. Champions, served notice that city-based baseball was back, that kids of color knew how to play…

And that unless you’re hurling a 70-mile-an-hour fastball, don’t tell us you “throw like a girl”…

 

I Can’t Breathe: Black Athletes Show Solidarity With Protesters against Police Brutality

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Athletes from football and basketball are donning, "I Can't Breathe" Tee-Shirts to show support for protesters across. Photo by CBS Lov

Athletes from football and basketball are donning, “I Can’t Breathe” Tee-Shirts to show support for protesters across. Photo by CBS Local Sacramento .

The lack of indictments against the police officers who killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner and the growing number of unarmed African-Americans being shot down by law enforcement officials has sparked protests throughout the country.

Some of the demonstrations have included protestors lying down in malls, blocking highways, wearing t-shirts saying, “Black Lives Matter” and “I can’t breathe” while conducting “die-ins” outside of professional sports venues as well.

Led by the energy of young activists and the wisdom of established Civil Rights leadership, the groundswell to end police brutality is growing into to a mass movement reminiscent of the Civil Rights and Anti-Vietnam War movements of the 1960s.

Among the more surprising groups of participants in these protests has been the Black athlete.

Their participation is surprising because this particular group of athletes grew up hearing Michael Jordan’s “Republicans buy sneakers, too” mantra and have been conditioned not to take a stand on issues of social issues for fear of losing millions in endorsements.

While at one time such gestures as Tommie Smith-John Carlos’s Black power salute at the 1968 Summer Olympics and Muhammad Ali refusing to accept his induction into the U.S. Army would have been commonplace, the Black athlete of the Post-Civil Rights movement has for the most part, silent or indifferent when it comes to issues of race.

Over the years, Jordan and O.J. Simpson, who is now serving time in prison, made millions in endorsements because they chose to remain race neutral or simply refused to answer questions regarding race. Their silence ultimately became part of the blueprint for Black athletes aspiring to success beyond the athletic field.

Until now…

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant dons his "I can't Breathe" T-shirt during his team's around on Monday.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant dons his “I can’t Breathe” T-shirt during his team’s around on Monday.

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, who organized a group photo of his then-Miami Heat teammates in hooded sweatshirts to protest the death of Trayvon Martin, and Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant joined members of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, Lakers point guard Jeremy Lin, Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush, Cleveland Browns cornerback Johnson Bademosi, and the entire Georgetown University Men’s Basketball squad in wearing t-shirts that said “I Can’t Breathe”, which were Garner’s last words as New York Police Officer Daniel Panteleo choked him to death.

Earlier in the season, members of the Washington NFL team came out before a game doing the “Hands up, Don’t Shoot” gesture in solidarity with the protesters in Ferguson, Missouri and two weeks ago five members of the St. Louis Rams, Ferguson’s home team, did the same.

Of course, the reaction from more than few fans and sports talk show hosts was the old “just shut up and play.” The St. Louis Police Officers Association was so put off by the Rams protest that they called on the NFL to discipline the players.

Even Bryant got some of the vitriol. A radio talking head, CBS college basketball analyst Doug Gottlieb said of Bryant on Twitter: “Kobe Bryant lives in Newport Coast, takes a chopper to the games, made $60m last 2 years…the struggle is real #ICANTBREATH.”

Although Gottlieb’s attempt at snark has been deleted, it was another way of saying that as a Black man who makes millions of dollars playing a game, he should just be grateful to earn his money and leave the political statements to others.

Speaking out against police officers killing young unarmed African-American men is not on the approved list of things for Black athletes to do. If Bryant had praised police officers and wore an LAPD hat and a shirt that said God Bless America, he would be a hero and the toast of the FOX News propaganda circuit.

In a piece he wrote for Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback column in Sports Illustrated,  Bademosi addressed this contention, saying that certain things are far too important to remain silent about.

“This issue as I see it—police killings as a symptom of the systematic and historical devaluing of Black lives—seemed too big to ignore,” he said in his piece. “The NFL wants to make players public lives conform to its standards. But when exceptional issues call for us to speak our minds, the league and the fans need to see us as men, with our own opinions and the freedom to express them.”

It was that form of consciousness during the Civil Rights Movement that motivated Black football players to threaten a boycott the American Football League 1965 All-Star game because of racism in New Orleans. It was Smith and Carlos raising their fists in the air on the gold medal stand in solidarity with African-Americans experiencing injustice.

In the words of the Talking Heads: “Same as it ever was.”