It seemed hard to believe, when word went around the Internet on Tuesday afternoon, that Kobe Bryant was going to play in the Big3 league next season. As it turned out, there was very good reason for a high degree of skepticism.
Bryant, in fact, has no plans to join the three-on-three basketball league co-founded last year by Ice Cube. That’s according to Molly Carter, chief marketing officer of Kobe Inc., in comments to the Associated Press.
The rumor mill began churning after remarks by the other co-founder of the Big3, entertainment executive Jeff Kwatinetz. On a conference call with Cube and reporters Tuesday, he was asked a question about Bryant “maybe” playing in his league in 2019.
“I did hear from a credible source that Kobe is going to be playing next year,” Kwatinetz reportedly said. “That’s something, but it may be nothing.”
Well, score that Nothing 1, Something 0, but not before some folks took the initial part of Kwatinetz’s remarks and ran with it. One Twitter post touting the would-be news was retweeted over 2,600 times (and counting), despite earning several replies indicating otherwise from notable figures well-connected to the NBA.
“Not true. 100 percent not happening,” Carter told TMZ Sports.
For his part, when fielding the same question about Bryant on Tuesday, Cube spoke in more general terms about his hopes to see the five-time NBA champion play in his league. “We have a list of people that we would love to see, I think the fans would love to see,” the actor/rapper reportedly said. “The fans would love to see Kobe, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce. Anybody who still has the passion to play. We don’t want you if you don’t have the passion to play.
“If Kobe doesn’t have the passion to play at this level, then it’s better for him to watch on TV. If he has the passion, then here we are.”
Cube, a Los Angeles native and ardent Lakers fan, has been more blunt in the past about his desire to recruit Bryant. In fact, he has said that watching the Black Mamba wind down his career in 2016 helped spur him to create a league that could showcase recent NBA stars.
“I hope so, one day [Bryant will join the Big3],” Cube said in August 2017. “I hope his competitive juices get to itching him and he wants to come into the league and score 50 and win the game. We hope he’ll play one day.”
Earlier this month, Cube said on “The Rich Eisen Show” that he tries to recruit Bryant “every time” they meet. “He always turns me down, but I don’t care,” Cube said. “Next time I see you, Kobe, I’m going to ask you again.”
A former NBA player now in the Big3, Stephen Jackson, made news Sunday when he jokingly — one would like to presume — offered to slap a reporter on Bryant’s behalf. The reporter had asked if Bryant “could handle this [Big3] league, with it being more physical inside,” causing reactions of disbelief from Jackson and teammate Alan Anderson.
Similar reactions occurred Tuesday to the suggestion that Bryant was joining the Big3. That is, at least among those who had the sense to realize that not only is he very busy with creative projects, one of which has already garnered him an Oscar, but that the 18-time all-star, who clearly would like to insert himself into the LeBron-MJ all-time discussion, would regard the prospect of playing half-court with the less-than-legendary likes of Ricky Davis, Reggie Evans and David Hawkins (just to name some of the league’s statistical leaders) as very much beneath him.
After all, this is player whose last competitive basketball game featured him becoming the oldest player to score 60 points in an NBA contest. It might not even be lost on Bryant that he accomplished that against the Jazz, the same team against which his idol, Michael Jordan, authored one of the greatest final NBA moments ever — right up until Jordan suited up again, as a relative shell of his former self.
Even then, at least Jordan was wearing an NBA uniform in his return to action (oh, that sweet Wizards teal). The idea of the decidedly haughty Bryant lacing ’em up in a Big3 jersey? Well, you just can’t say “Mamba out” fast enough.
(It might be worth noting that this author has absolutely nothing against the Big3 himself and is simply expressing his opinion of Bryant’s likely viewpoint. It’s also worth noting that the league already has a “White Mamba,” a.k.a. Brian Scalabrine, who happens to wear No. 24 for the Ball Hogs. Says here it’ll never happen, but man, it would be incredible to see Bryant in that jersey.)
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