September 27, 2011
No player, not even LeBron James(notes), is as divisive among NBA fans as Kobe Bryant(notes). Whereas opinions on LeBron vary from "he is a great talent who just hasn't won yet" to "he is a big dumb jerk," Kobe tends to be viewed as either the greatest champion of his time or basketball's greatest monster. There's rarely any middle ground, and even the haters who acknowledge Kobe's championships note that he couldn't do it without some of the best big man talent of the past 25 years. It's the NBA's version of an intractable political debate like the legality of Roe v. Wade.
Kobe's public profile is important context for the video above, a clip from this Sunday's premiere of the 23rd season of "The Simpsons." As a character voiced by Kiefer Sutherland explains his training in combat, a flashback begins of several training exercises involving legendary killers like Chucky, Pinhead and an ornery polar bear. Oh, and Kobe Bryant.
The best part is that appeals to Kobe haters and lovers a like. For his detractors, there's the bit where Kobe gets punched in the face and the implication that he is some sort of psychopath. For his fans, there's the suggestion that Kobe is so ruthless on the court that he belongs alongside some of the most fearsome creatures from film and nature. Everyone wins. It's almost as if the episode's writers tried to appeal to as broad an audience as possible.