The Lakers star is one of the best players of his generation. He's also one of the most outspoken
Kobe Bryant is mouthing off again. After a recent loss to a young Philadelphia team, Bryant, 34, told reporters that the team lost because "we're old as shit." Of course, this isn't exactly new for Bryant. In recent years, he's increasingly taken to the public square to vent his frustrations. It's been nearly a decade since the Lakers officially turned the team over to Bryant, after his early years in Los Angeles were marked by an infamous feud with teammate Shaquille O'Neal. And Bryant has had a Hall of Fame career. His five championships and consistent scoring prowess easily make him one of the league's best players in the post-Jordan era. But his dominance comes with some well-known baggage. Here's a look back at some of Bryant's lowest moments:
The target: O'Neal and the Lakers. In an ESPN The Magazine article, Bryant reveals that he and Coach Phil Jackson had discussed taking Bryant's game to the next level, including taking over for O'Neal when necessary.
The comments: ''Tone my game down? I need to turn it up. I've improved. How are you going to bottle me up? I'd be better off playing somewhere else.''
The fallout: O'Neal and Bryant were still winning championships together, so it was pretty easy to get past this. Bryant said "he wanted to remain a Laker for life and that he and O'Neal would work out their differences just as they have in the past," reported The New York Times.
The target: O'Neal. As their relationship soured, Kobe turned on Shaq. He opened up in an ESPN interview.
The comments: "If leaving the Lakers at the end of the season is what I decide, a major reason for that will be Shaq's childlike selfishness and jealousy ... I have been a bigger person every time something happened with Shaq, and I don't expect this to be any different. But somebody in this organization had to speak up, because his unprofessionalism hurt us last year, and I don't want it to hurt us this year."
The fallout: Bryant was fined an undisclosed amount by the team and had a private one-on-one session with Coach Jackson to iron out their differences.
The target: The Lakers' front office. Bryant, a cornerstone of the franchise's future, had requested a trade. He expressed his frustration to a radio host.
The comments: "[The Lakers] obviously want to move in a different direction in terms of rebuilding ... At this point I'll go play on Pluto... I just want them to do the right thing."
The fallout: Bryant and the team patched things up. It probably helped that they won consecutive titles in 2009 and 2010.
The target: His teammates. After a particularly grueling loss in Game 5 of the NBA Finals that put the Lakers on the brink of elimination, Bryant vented about his team's lack of effort.
The comments: "We've regressed since Game 1," Bryant said. "Our defense belongs on milk cartons in the last two games."
The fallout: Bryant's words seem to have inspired the other players to step up, as the Lakers took Games 6 and 7 to win the title.
The target: Referee Bennie Adams. During a close game against rival San Antonio, Bryant let his anger get the best of him. He was caught on microphone blasting Adams with a homophobic slur.
The comments: We'd rather not print them.
The fallout: He was fined $100,000 and lived through an incredibly embarrassing ordeal. He also followed up with an apology the next day. "What I said last night should not be taken literally," he said. "My actions were out of frustration during the heat of the game, period. The words expressed do NOT reflect my feelings toward the gay and lesbian communities and were NOT mean to offend anyone."
The target: Ex-teammates Smush Parker, Kwame Brown, and Chris Mihm. Entering this season, Bryant was so excited about new teammates Steve Nash and Dwight Howard that he used some former teammates as a punchline.
The comments: "I tell Steve, you won MVP but I was playing with Smush Parker," Bryant said. "He's playing with [Leandro] Barbosa. I'm playing with Smush and Kwame [Brown]. My goodness ... Smush Parker was the worst. He shouldn't have been in the NBA, but we were too cheap to pay for a point guard. We let him walk on ... Smush Parker, with Tierre Brown as the backup. I'm taking 45 shots a game. What was I supposed to do, pass the ball in to Chris Mihm? Chris Mihm?"
The fallout: Bryant's arrogance set off a frenzy among NBA fans and elicited a response from Parker, who called Bryant "overrated as a teammate."
The target: The Lakers' starters. After the starters lost in a scrimmage against the team's reserves, Kobe went off.
The comments: Bryant's outburst wasn't caught by any reporters at the time, but it reportedly contained expletives. After the team's next game, a win, Bryant would only say, "If guys are too happy, I need to bring them back down to Earth tomorrow."
The fallout: The Lakers continue to struggle. After monumental expectations at success, the Lakers have teetered below .500 for much of the season and sit outside the playoff picture. Unless things turn around fast, expect the never-shy Bryant to make his complaints known again and again.
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