Nobody is going to bench Kobe Bryant any time soon if Kobe Bryant has anything to say about it. But that doesn't mean the 34-year-old isn't aware of the pitfalls of being an aging superstar. From the afar, the Lakers' leader has been keeping track of the Alex Rodriguez drama in New York and he hasn't been happy with what has been happening. He also thinks he's pinpointed the reason why he won't suffer a similar fate.
"We're different. But you're talking about, 'He's one of the best to ever play.' I think really the difference is, sometimes he forgets he's the best... Where, I don't," Kobe said with a laugh.
As anyone who has observed Bryant closely over the years will likely attest, there doesn't seem any danger of the Black Mamba forgetting that he is "one of the best ever to play."
Kobe, a Yankees fan, wasn't too thrilled when Ibanez hit for A-Rod against Baltimore, despite the move resulting in a victory. Although Kobe doesn't know what it feels like to be benched the five-time NBA champion told reporters on Tuesday night that he reached out to his friend earlier in the week for a pep talk.
"You can only control what you can control. You go out there and do the best job you can," Bryant said of his advice to Rodriguez, via ESPNLosAngeles. "If they take you out of the lineup, it's really on you to be a good teammate and support the other guys, which he's good about doing. I just say to him, 'You're Alex Rodriguez. You're A-Rod. You're one of the best to ever do it. I think sometimes he kind of forgets that and wants to try to do the right thing all the time."
With Rodriguez struggling mightily this postseason (and having been only slightly more effective last postseason), it seems ages ago that he was the most dynamic offensive force in the game. A-Rod went 2 for 16 in an ALDS against Baltimore that stretched to five games. His productivity has been almost nonexistent through four games of the ALCS against Detroit (he is just 1 for 7 and only played in three of those games). He has been pinch hit for with the game on the line and taken out of the lineup completely twice, including in a Game 3 loss to Detroit on Tuesday. After that loss, AP columnist Jim Litke went suggested that the Yankees should consider eating part of the remaining five years and $114 million guaranteed on his contract and then ship him out of town.
While getting replaced in crucial late-game situations and sitting in the dugout for two playoff games, A-Rod has appeared to take everything in stride. He said "there was no one happier than" him (or more flirtatious) after Raul Ibanez replaced him late and won Game 3 against Baltimore, despite the awkward-looking hug.
A-Rod's apparent willingness to sit and watch reveals perhaps another difference between he and Bryant. Will Kobe ever cede his floor time to a lesser-known teammate in the fourth quarter? And if he were forced to then would he be the first to offer a hug?