The whispers started in Round 1 against Oklahoma City. National reporters concluded that Kobe wasn’t simply playing injured, he was playing “old”. When the Lakers found themselves locked in a 2-2 series with the young and restless Thunder, the whispers turned to roars.
The loudest voice belonged to Sir Charles Barkley, who knows a thing or two about being past his prime. Back in April he led the charge shouting that an “old” Kobe who is “clearly on the downside of his career” would not lead the Lakers to a repeat.
You think Kobe was listening?
It continued last week with a seemingly innocent question.
Minutes after the four game sweep of Utah was in the books, reporters predictably turned their attention to the Phoenix Suns. LA Times beat writer Brad Turner asked Kobe if the Lakers’ back-to-back losses to Phoenix in 2006 and 2007 would provide any extra motivation for the series.
“What do you think?” Kobe snapped back, creating an awkward silence in the press room that would make coach Gregg Popovich blush.
In case reminiscing about playoff failure with the Mamba wasn’t fun enough, certain reporters thought digging up specifics might really get the party started. With LeBron James’ Game 5 stink bomb fresh on their minds, writers had visions of Kobe “tanking” Game 7 dancing through their heads. Rehashing that topic with Kobe, however, seems about as safe as sharing a New York hotel room with Lawrence Taylor.
Kobe, who vehemently denied sending a “message” in that infamous Game 7, wasn’t having any of it.
“That’s just stupid”
“People who say that are stupid”
Are we having fun yet?
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