Everybody Loves A Winner

Everybody loves a winner.

That's an old saying in sports.

It is very true. As long as you're winning...things can be easily forgotten. These thoughts came to mind last week as I watched Kobe Bryant celebrate winning an NBA championship with his Los Angeles Laker teammates. Kobe stood on the stage and accepted the MVP trophy after finishing off the Orlando Magic. He was beeming. Even those of us who aren't fans of Kobe (like me)...could not help but see the happiness on his face.

In 2003, Bryant made headlines when he was accused of sexual assault at a hotel in Edwards, Colorado by a hotel employee. Bryant admitted an adulterous sexual encounter with the accuser, but denied the sexual assault allegation. In September 2004, prosecutors dropped the case after his accuser informed them that she was unwilling to testify. Bryant's accuser brought a separate civil suit against him that was ultimately settled out of court. I don't know what happened between Kobe and that woman. Neither do you. The two of them are the only ones who really know what happened. Nevertheless, I won't pass judgement on Kobe. Back then, the future looked bleak for Kobe. Even though the case was settled, he was no longer one of the most marketable faces of the NBA. Avertisers could not afford to market and promote him the way that they once did. Not only was he trying to overcome public opinion, he was playing without Shaquille O'Neal.

Time heals wounds. Winning cures all. That's what Kobe would quickly learned. He elevated his game on the court and off the court. Kobe became more personable with his teammates as well as the media. Slowly, people began to see Kobe in a different light. On the court, he was winning the fans back. He helped the Lakers reach the NBA Finals last year vs the Boston Celtics. Despite losing to the Celtics, the Lakers had the best record during that season. The Lakers had more nationally televised games than anyother team in the NBA. From a marketing standpoint, Kobe was back. Although he lost in the Finals, he played for the 2008 Olympic Team and led the team to a gold medal. In my opinion, that team would NOT have won it without Kobe.
This year, Kobe played some of his best basketball as he enters the prime of his career. I noticed that after Laker games, you'd see Kobe kissing his wife in the tunnel near the locker room. Their intimate moment was always caught on camera. Why? It's marketing 101. It's the re-branding of an athlete. Anytime an athlete falls...it gives a chance for the the fans and the public to pick them back up. By winning a championship, Kobe has come full circle. Along the way, he's made more fans. He has made people like me...who didn't care for him before...secretly root for him and really appreciate his talent.
Kobe's story is not unique to just him. We've seen this before. In 2000, Baltimore Raven linebacker Ray Lewis was facing a murder charge following a fight between his friends and 2 men after a Super Bowl party in Atlanta. Two men were left dead on the street. Lewis proclaimed his innocence. He was eventually charged with obstruction of justice and served no time. The following football season, Lewis led the Ravens to the Super Bowl where they defeated the New York Giants. Lewis was named the MVP. He is often called the best linebacker of his generation and is regarded as on of the best players to ever play the game. Ray Lewis is one of the premier faces of the NFL.
We all go through trials and tribulations in life. Athletes are no different. Anytime an athlete falls from grace, most of us want to see them rise back to the top. Why? Because everybody loves a winner. Guys like Kobe Bryant and Ray Lewis are winners. Winning makes things better. If you get into trouble, adapt to your new situation, then overcome.
Hey Mike Vick, are you listening?


DA REASON said...

KB's marketing people made a mistake by calling him the Black Mamba !!! Something about being a snake doesn't help when you are trying to re-brand yourself !!! LOL !!! I know he didn't really have a nickname, but black mamba??? He should have let KENNY come up with one !!!

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