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On Thursday night, Spectrum SportsNet out of Los Angeles released a long interview they did with Kobe Bryant as part of their "Connected With" series. The interview featured Kobe talking about everything from coaching the triangle offense to his daughter’s youth basketball team to the current state of his former team, the Lakers. It was an all-encompassing interview with plenty of solid quotes from Kobe.
But one quote in particular started making the rounds on Saturday after ESPN put it out into the world. In one portion of the interview, Kobe was asked about Lonzo Ball and the early struggles he has endured during the first quarter of his first NBA season. Specifically, Kobe was asked if he would preach patience to Ball and other young Lakers players like Kyle Kuzma and Julius Randle. Kobe said rather than taking that approach, he would put an emphasis on those players playing with a bit more urgency, because if nothing else, it would push them to grow. It was a reasoned response.
"He needs to get better now,” Kobe said. "Kuzma, better now. Randle, better now. It’s like, players, you want that now…We never thought we were gonna win four years from now. We thought—really thought—'This is our year. We’re gonna get this done. We’re gonna push, push, push, get better now.' And in the process of having that kind of impatience…you develop, right? If you’re just patiently going about it, you’ll never get there. So it’s kind of a…for players, it’s kind of a patient impatience."
When you read the full quote, it’s easy to see what Kobe was saying. But ESPN pulled one segment of that longer quote out and socialized it on their Twitter account. It made it seem like Kobe was going at Ball and telling him he needs to get better immediately rather than taking his lumps and figuring things out along the way.
The way ESPN chose to sell the story didn’t seem to sit well with Kobe. While Kobe didn’t take direct aim at The Worldwide Leader in Sports, he did retweet and respond to a few people on Twitter who did. He started by responding to a tweet Spectrum SportsNet sent out adding "a little more context" to Kobe’s original interview.
Kobe also retweeted a tweet about ESPN being "desperate for clicks and viewership."
Additionally, Kobe responded to a fan who suggested ESPN will "lose the trust" of viewers by taking quotes like the one about Lonzo out of context.
Finally, Kobe retweeted a transcript of his interview in an effort to get people to read what he actually said rather than just relying on the quote ESPN used to get his opinion on Ball.
In fairness to ESPN, they’re (obviously!) not the first sports publication to do this to an athlete. Quotes are taken out of context and spread around on social media all the time. But in this case, Kobe took the time to give a thoughtful answer to a question, and didn’t appreciate ESPN trimming and using it to make it sound more scandalous. He called them out for doing it ever so subtly and put everyone else on notice in the process. Don’t try and repurpose Kobe’s quotes out of context, or else…