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Ball Don't Lie

Smush Parker fires back after Kobe Bryant’s ‘worst’ slam: ‘What I don’t like about him is the man that he is’

Dan Devine
Ball Don't Lie

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Smush Parker is disappointed and Kobe Bryant is slack-jawed. Perfect. (Getty Images)

On Thursday, BDL Editor Kelly Dwyer brought you the story of Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant — now part of perhaps the best starting five in the NBA this season — speaking, shall we say, unkindly about the somewhat lesser teammates with whom he once shared the Staples Center's stage. While several players caught freewheeling insults, the Black Mamba reserved his most poisonous venom for former starting L.A. point guard Smush Parker, whom Bryant said was "the worst," "shouldn't have been in the NBA" and was allowed to "walk on" to the Lakers because "we were too cheap to pay for a point guard."

Basically, Kobe — from his comfortable perch at/near the top of the NBA — took great glee in throwing rocks down at the head of Parker, who hasn't played in the NBA since the 2007-08 season and to whom scarcely any NBA fans have given more than a "Hey, remember that guy?" thought over the past four or so years, all of which, of course, seems completely necessary and not at all ridiculously petulant.

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After Bryant's remarks became a topic of much sports-talk discussion on Thursday, Parker had an opportunity to respond, joining the Blog Talk Radio program Hard2Guard Radio to discuss not only the direct insults of his ability, but also his general perceptions of Kobe from the two seasons Smush spent playing alongside him. Parker has spoken out of both sides of his mouth on this issue in the past, calling him "a great guy" and "a great teammate" back in 2007, but describing playing with Bryant as "overrated" two years later.

Now 31, having played overseas since 2009, Parker showed respect for Bryant's game and accomplishments in the 35-minute interview, but made it clear that he's not too big a fan of Kobe as a person. Larry Brown Sports transcribed portions of the interview:

"You can't knock the man's legacy, you can't knock what he's done in basketball. His work ethic is tremendous. There's not an ounce of hate in my blood whatsoever. The guy can play basketball — you've seen that throughout his career.

"What I don't like about him is the man that he is. His personality. How he treats people. I don't like that side of Kobe Bryant."

That side, according to Parker, prevents anybody without a certain established level of accomplishment and bona fides from even speaking to Bryant:

"Midway through the first season, I tried to at least have a conversation with Kobe Bryant — he is my teammate, he is a co-worker of mine, I see his face every day I go in to work — and I tried to talk with him about football. He tells me I can't talk to him. He tells me I need more accolades under my belt before I come talk to him. He was dead serious. [...]

"We're teammates, we talk basketball on the court. [Our talks were] about getting him the ball pretty much."

Well, now, that just sounds ... um, well, that sounds about right, actually. That kind of passes the Black Mamba smell test. If I was not some kind of legendary talent or someone absolutely instrumental in ensuring Kobe Bryant's success, I could totally see him not having much use for me in conversation, and I could certainly see whatever conversations we might have specifically relating to whatever use he might have for me in ensuring success. Then again, a lot of my conversations tend to involve stuff like that pretty good 2005 Babyshambles record and whether it'd be better for robot voices to have a variety of tones and timbres, like fleshies, or if they should all sound like Auto-Tune, so we know them upon first hearing. So maybe I'd deserve it.

And, to some degree, maybe Smush deserved it, too. After all, Parker's a man who, as Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times puts it, was "known to have a surly attitude [during his playing career] and his professionalism often came into question, including the time he missed a team plane because he overslept." For someone like Kobe, for whom winning is ostensibly the only thing worth waking up to do, having to rely on a player on whom you didn't really know you could rely (let alone a couple of them) was probably maddening. Then again, working day in and day out with someone who basically views you as little more than a detestable pile of carbon probably isn't the most fun thing in the world, either, which makes Smush seem somewhat sympathetic here.

Other chunks of the interview involve Parker that he wasn't actually a surly dude, but was rather "misunderstood" during his career, which, I don't know — some folks, like Metta World Peace, who shares a home borough with Parker, co-sign him, and others, like ex-NBA beat man Ross Siler, who covered the Kobe-and-Smush Lakers for the Los Angeles Daily News, don't. Parker answers Bryant's "didn't belong in the league" criticism by noting that he was "top three in all the categories" on the Lakers' stat sheets during his two seasons with the team, which would be a great point if Kobe's initial argument was something besides, "The rest of my teammates then were terrible." Smush might've checkmated himself with that one.

A relatively reasonable perspective on all of these seems to be to acknowledge that Kobe is right that Smush was significantly less than a perfect backcourt partner on those mid-Aughts Laker teams, that Kobe probably isn't the easiest guy to get along with, that Smush probably didn't make it that easy for a hyper-competitive guy to get along with him, and that Kobe doesn't need to be spending too much time before the start of what should be a title-contending season talking about a roughly replacement-level player he played with five years ago. Does that seem fair to everybody? That about sum it up?

Wait, one more thing, courtesy of friend of the program Nate Jones:

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Yup. (Screencap via @JonesOnTheNBA)

Man, Kobe is good, huh?

Hat-tips to fellow friends of the program Kurt Helin at ProBasketballTalk and Tom Ziller at SB Nation.

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