Buckner: Love to hate Kobe while it still lasts

Candace Buckner: Commentary




The Guy You Love To Hate joined elite company this week.

Kobe Bryant scored his 30,000th career point. Only four other players in the history of the NBA have reached this plateau. Jabbar, Malone, Jordan and Chamberlain. Now, Kobe.

It takes a long time to score that many points, so do you realize what that means, Trail Blazer fans?

Kobe has been in the league for 17 years and for most of that time, you’ve given him a new middle name — one that rhymes with “SHUCKS!” Now, you’ve got two, maybe three years left to love hating this guy.

So, by all means. Hate away. We are measured by the worth of whom we chose as our rivals. And you, dear Blazer fan, have chosen wisely.

All these years casting the Black Mamba as the black hat has meant that you’ve saved your lustiest boos for the best. The fire from the darkest pit of your soul has burned the hottest for someone who belongs on basketball’s Mount Rushmore, and not some yahoo in a Clippers jersey.

Keep measuring yourself against this guy, just don’t forget to enjoy the opportunity to loathe him while you’ve still got the time.

“He has that killer about him, that I love, man, I just genuinely respect,” Blazers rookie Will Barton said about Bryant. “With all the hate, I think he’s one of the most hated super stars ever…”

“I just don’t understand.”

Barton grew up on the other coast and still counted Kobe Bryant as his favorite player. He wore only Kobe sneakers on his feet. He’s pulled out the “but Kobe’s got five rings” closer to win countless arguments. So please forgive Barton if he doesn’t “understand” the Kobe hate, especially around the Rose City.

Bryant has scored 1,528 of his career points at the expense of Portland’s professional basketball franchise. In 2007, he once dropped 65 points on the Blazers, which is still the top scoring performance by any opponent.

Then again, maybe Blazer fans hate him not for a particular bucket — but for the alley-oop pass he sent Shaquille O’Neal en route to the biggest fourth-quarter rally in an NBA Game 7 ever and shipped Portland out of the 2000 Western Conference Finals. No title for Rip City. Kobe just didn’t break your heart, he kicked your dog, stole your lunch money and Kid N’ Played all over your grave. And you hate him for it.

Through the years, he’s been ruthless. But in spite of this, the one true ‘Kobe Stopper’ resides in the Rose Garden.

Nobody busts Kobe better than Blazer fans.

Since Kobe’s arrival in the league in 1996, the Lakers are just 12-28 in regular and postseason games played in Portland. Now isn’t that something. Kobe has spent a career silencing the hate in opposing arenas around the league, but he can’t drown out yours.

The Rose Garden’s greatest rival seems to bring out the best from the Blazers. Be honest — which home win this season has meant more: beating the Timberwolves or beating the Lakers?

Thought so.

What would Martina Navratilova be without Chris Evert? Duke without North Carolina? Popeye without Brutus? The answer is nothing. Our rivals make us better.

Muhammad Ali would’ve retired as a great boxer with a record of wins against Liston and a bunch of guys you couldn’t name on a multiple-choice test. But Joe Frazier enters his narrative, and Ali lives forever as the Greatest of all Time. Frazier elevated Ali in a way nobody else could have.

Rivals make us better. And Kobe brings out the passionate best from a group widely considered as the best fans in the NBA.

So, hiss him if you want. And believe that he lives in an underground supervillain lair so dark and evil that not even Lex Luthor would call it home. Just do me a favor, and cherish the hate while it lasts.

The day will soon come when Bryant retires and hangs up his customized cloven-hoofed Nikes for the final time.

Then, and only then, you’ll appreciate spending nearly 20 years booing the best rival ever to grace the Rose Garden court.

Candace Buckner covers the Blazers for The Columbian. She can be reached at 360-735-4528 or email at candace.buckner@columbian.com. Her Twitter handle is @blazerbanter