I'm sure you've been there before: That fight you had with your significant other consumes you to the point that you can't focus on your job. No matter how hard you try to shake your domestic drama, it continues to gnaw at you like John Goodman on a turkey leg. Now, imagine going to work every day with some legal problem hanging over your head, say, a rape case. Now, factor in that you admitted on national television with your spouse by your side that unlike former President Bill Clinton, you did have sex with that woman and broke your wedding vows.
Take this nightmare a step further and imagine you had the type of job that required you to memorize offensive and defensive plays and required extraneous physical exertion and that you would have to go to work on the same day you were required to attend court proceedings some 900 miles away. These pressing problems would likely weigh you down. Unless, of course, you're Kobe Bryant.
By now you're undoubtedly at least casually familiar with the rape case surrounding Kobe Bryant and An Unnamed Resort Employee. Kobe admits to consensual sexual contact with the young lady, but she claims that Bryant forced himself on her when she visited his room last summer. Regardless of the sordid courtroom details of the case and whose version of the details you choose to believe Kobe's actions on the basketball court have proven to be one of the most puzzling aspects of the situation. Rather than having an adverse effect on his play, the days on which Kobe has appeared in court in Colorado and then flown to Los Angeles to play basketball have seen Kobe flourish, something that is both amazing and disturbing. One has to wonder about Bryant's motivation, and what he thinks about during that ride on a private jet. I'm sure that basketball serves as a release for Kobe, but the performances he delivers on the days of his court appearances are simply scary. Here's a look:
Dec. 19, 2003: Kobe makes his first court-to-court appearance, arriving in Los Angeles during the first quarter to face the Denver Nuggets. He drains a 20-foot jump shot as time expires to lead the Lakers to a 2-point victory.
March 24, 2004: Kobe does it again, going from Colorado to L.A. This time he puts up 36 points in a huge game against the rival Sacramento Kings.
April 28, 2004: Bryant jets to Los Angeles just in time for a playoff game against the Houston Rockets. Kobe scores 31 points and dishes out 10 assists to knock the Rockets out of the playoffs and propel the Lakers into the second round.
May 12, 2004: After entering a plea of not guilty in Colorado court, Kobe gets to the Lakers game in time to score 42 points (15 of them coming in the fourth quarter), evening the series with the defending champion San Antonio Spurs at 2-2.
When asked how he is able to excel in such obviously trying circumstances, Kobe simply states, "I don't know, I really don't know." Hogwash. He knows, and he knows in a big way. I can just see Kobe's frame stretched out in that private jet, his headphones blasting some Jay-Z, Lakers' playbook in his hands, and I can just imagine what was going through the mind of the shooting guard/accused rapist:
I'll show those motherfuckers. I'll show them all. That loudmouthed white bitch at that resort knew what she was getting herself into. That arrogant prick of a district attorney can kiss my black ass too, with his condescending attitude. Fuck all my teammates for not saying one word to support me to the media, fuck all those fans that boo me and fuck Nutella for dropping my endorsement deal. They'll all pay. I'm gonna drop 40 on ‘em tonight.
Oh yeah, fuck you too, T-Mac, for saying that I should have stuck with my wife. He don't know what it's like dealing with that prima donna. She's worse than Shaq, and he never made me buy him a $4 million ring.
I really hope I'm wrong about Kobe's private thoughts. Maybe basketball is a release for him during a troublesome time. Perhaps he's able to block all of his legal thoughts from his mind and allow his uncanny athletic ability to take over. However, I would be willing to wager dollars to doughnuts that those imaginary harsh words above don't even begin to scratch the surface of what really goes on inside Kobe's dome during that jet ride. Perhaps such thoughts consume him while he's on the court:
What's up, Tim Duncan? You think you can guard me? Four years of college ball at Wake Forest and you can't even hold my jockstrap. Maybe when I'm done putting up 40 points on you, I'll go after your girlfriend. Ain't no jury in the country that would put me in jail for being the man that you can't be. Oh, you got something to say, Doug Christie? You just keep being the NBA poster boy for pussy-whipped motherfuckers and I'm gonna wear another championship ring. Y'all Sacramento Kings are some mulatto-looking freaks anyway. I'm gonna beat you like I'm gonna beat this rape charge.
Only Kobe knows for certain what his motivation is on those days when he first stands trial in Colorado, then flies to Los Angeles to play basketball. Statistics rarely lie, so there must be some extra impetus to perform on days when he must wear a suit and look humble yet defiant in a courtroom. I know I have a hard time focusing on my job when I can't remember if I shut off the George Foreman Grill. I can't imagine trying to keep my wits about me and running full-speed for a few hours while pondering whether or not I'll be doing time a year from now. I guess that's just one of the many areas in which I am different from Kobe Bryant. I'm not convinced that's such a bad thing.