The Other McCain

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The Basketball World Mourns ‘Mamba’

Posted on | January 27, 2020 | 1 Comment


It’s been years since I paid attention to the NBA, or to basketball generally. When I was a sports editor in the 1980s, of course, I followed the game, but in my mind, the Golden Age of Basketball was when Larry Bird’s Celtics battled Magic Johnson’s Lakers back in the 1980s. Still, when the news flashed Sunday that Kobe Bryant had been killed in a helicopter crash, I knew that this was a great tragedy.

The son of a former NBA player (his dad played with Dr. J), Bryant was a high-school sensation who turned down college scholarships to go directly into the NBA, and became the youngest player ever to play in a professional game. His second season with the Lakers, he became the youngest All-Star in league history, and his third season — when he was still only 20 years old — “marked Bryant’s emergence as a premier guard in the league.” Imagine being a two-time NBA All-Star before your peers have reached their senior year in college, and yet Bryant was only beginning to astonish the basketball world. In the next three seasons, the Lakers won three consecutive NBA championships, with Shaquille O’Neal and Bryant forming an indomitable scoring duo in the historic “three-peat.” Later, in 2009-2010, Bryant again led the Lakers to back-to-back titles. How many players have ever had five NBA championship rings? Nicknamed “Mamba” by fans, Kobe retired after the 2016 season with a career scoring average of 25 points per game over 20 seasons, having led the league in scoring twice and played in 12 All-Star games.


Bryant was married nearly 20 years to his wife Vanessa, whom he first met in 1999, and they had four daughters; the oldest — Gigi, 13 — was killed in Sunday’s helicopter crash with her father. Fans built a makeshift shrine to their hero outside the Staples Center arena in L.A.

While fans were mourning, and as President Trump was paying tribute to the NBA legend, a writer for the Washington Post had other ideas:

A Washington Post journalist has been suspended by the newspaper after she tweeted a link on Sunday to a years-old story about the Kobe Bryant rape case just hours after the basketball legend and his daughter were killed in a helicopter crash.
Felicia Sonmez, who covers national politics for the Post, took to Twitter shortly after the world learned of Bryant’s death along with eight others aboard his private helicopter which crashed outside of Los Angeles.
She posted a link to an April 2016 story from the news site The Daily Beast which carried the headline: ‘Kobe Bryant’s Disturbing Rape Case: The DNA Evidence, the Accuser’s Story, and the Half-Confession.’ . . .
Sonmez deleted the tweets due to the overwhelming backlash, but others on Twitter screengrabbed the posts and responded with disgust.


She got the ratio from hell — more than 20,000 negative reactions — on Twitter, and continued digging until she nearly lost her job. I’m sure she’ll be reinstated after her suspension, but what shall we say about this? I remember that 2003 case, and my attitude at the time was that when an NBA player invites a woman to his hotel room, she should know what her acceptance of the invitation implies. I mean, c’mon — when NBA players leave the arena after a game, they are thronged by women desperate to be their companions for the night, and Kobe was an All-Star who had just won three consecutive championships. The fact that Kobe was married, of course, should have restrained his advances, but many high-status married men (famously including former President Bill Clinton) seem to regard their marital vows as non-binding.

The story linked by the Washington Post reporter includes details that highlight the way these “he-said/she-said” incidents so often develop: Kobe was obviously a man who had seldom been rejected. She kissed him and, well, where did she expect this to lead? She’s a 19-year-old Colorado hotel clerk, and he’s a multimillionaire athletic superstar, and certainly we can imagine that Kobe thought any display of reluctance on her part was just “playing hard to get.” Also, we must factor into this equation the matter of race: His accuser was white, and while she evidently was not a racist (she told police she was initially “excited” when she learned the NBA star was staying at the hotel, and apparently didn’t mind kissing him), but what did Kobe think? Did the NBA superstar imagine that this teenage hotel clerk was rejecting his advances merely because he was black? I don’t mean to defend Kobe insofar as what happened was clearly wrong (as he himself later admitted), but rather to explain How Things Really Are, as opposed to How Some People Wish Things Were.

It’s all fine and good to avow “color-blindness,” and to denounce as racism — there are five A’s in “RAAAAACIST!” — any deviation from such an ideal, but not everyone thinks that way. Even people who disavow racism will often behave in ways that are race-conscious. This is true of people of every race, and if Kobe felt he was being disrespected because a white woman spurned his romantic advances, he would certainly not be the first black man to feel that way. What we need, as a society, is more license to discuss our feelings on such subjects without fear of being swarmed by a mob of Social Justice Warriors if we deviate from whatever the official “progressive” attitude is supposed to be.

Live long enough, and you’ll see liberals do a 180-degree turn on many issues, and the way Kobe was treated in the aftermath of that 2003 rape accusation is certainly such a case. Once upon a time, liberals would have defended a black man accused in any similar circumstance, but nowadays the feminists have decided that lynch mobs are “progressive” and defending due process of law makes you a right-wing extremist. Liberals have also done a 180-degree turn on free speech. I’m old enough to remember when liberals adamantly defended all manner of things — including Communist professors and federal grants for pornographic art — on First Amendment grounds. Today’s progressives, however, act like the Thought Police, vigilantly on the lookout for any evidence of racism, sexism or homophobia. Even I, who laugh at being hate-listed by the SPLC, must carefully weigh my words when writing about these issues, lest I offend some of my conservative friends who are eager to avoid any guilt-by-association with a Thought Criminal.

We should remember Kobe Bryant for what he accomplished as one of the greatest basketball players in the history of the game. I loathe the tendency to inject politics into every aspect of our lives, and if Felicia Sonmez learns anything from her experience, let us hope she learns that sports fans don’t want her “woke” attitude anywhere near their games.

Hey, Felicia: Why do you think we elected Donald Trump, anyway?



One Response to “The Basketball World Mourns ‘Mamba’”

  1. In The SJW Battle Between a Black Athlete and Rape-survivor, Who Wins? | 357 Magnum
    January 28th, 2020 @ 11:24 am

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