On Kobe Bryant And Collective Black Thought


The idea of better and opportunity-filled lives for ourselves and our loved ones is something we all aspire to. The means we take to get to that point will differ — and perhaps some of us want it a bit more than others — but we all want the increased access that opportunity provides us. We all want to enrich our lives. And we all want to leave a legacy.

This is why half the people reading this have six-figure student loan debts. And why so many of us are so determined to see – and eat food from – every corner of the globe. And why we make sure to send our children to the best schools we can afford. And why we make pains to surround ourselves with people who’ll add something to our lives. Because education gives you more opportunity. And opportunity can give you more access. And access can give you more freedom.

And that’s it. We want to be free. We want to accomplish enough that we’re able to do the things we want to do. And, if we’re not able to ourselves, we want that for our children.

This freedom isn’t just about action, though. What we’re really aspiring for is freedom of thought. The ability to just think and imagine and dream without any limitations or constraints.

Or maybe not.

The reactions to Kobe Bryant’s statements about Trayvon Martin suggest otherwise.

Kobe comes from wealth. His dad was a professional basketball player, he grew up in Italy, and before he was a teen he’d already seen parts of the world many of us will never see. He did not have to deal with the complexities, contexts, and constructs of race most of us have had to. At least not on the same level. Basically, he was able to just be. Which, again, is what we’re all aiming for. If not for us specifically, our children. Those expanded horizons. That freedom.

But, when Kobe said something that wasn’t aligned with how Black people are supposed to think — something that really wasn’t all that controversial — this privilege became a problem because it cultivated a disconnect to Black people and Black thought. And, while Kobe is the most recent example, this same idea is brought up whenever Jaden or Willow Smith or any other high-profile person of privilege says or does something outside of the realm of generally accepted Black behavior.

Thing is, this is something we all know. We know that the person who grows up with more privilege and more freedom probably just isn’t going to see and process things the same way as the person who wasn’t afforded those things. The rich Black kid from Italy just aint gonna see the world the same way the poor Black kid from Baltimore will. And we criticize the mindset that often comes with that privilege and freedom.

But we still want that privilege and freedom. It’s still an aspiration. It’s still something we work for and pray about.

I’m not a fan of Kobe Bryant. And I do think his statements about Trayvon Martin suggest a certain race-based naivety. I do plan to have children one day, though. And I’d love to be able to provide them with the same experiences and opportunities Kobe’s parents were able to give him. But how will I feel when those experiences and opportunities lead to them thinking and feeling…differently about what it means to be Black?

I wish I could say “What’s the point of all the education, experience, and opportunity if you feel the exact same way about shit that I do?

But, honestly, I don’t know. Cause right now, I think it would bother me too.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Yes It’s True…Black Guys Can Like White Girls AND Black Girls Too

Do you realize that being seen with you means I can never go to the Essence festival again? Damn you cavewoman! Damn you!!!!

A week or so ago, our favorite least favorite (and newly single) professional athlete was spotted at The Watch The Throne concert with professional wifey Sanaa Lathan. Now, whether they just happened to run into each other there or were filming Loving Brown Sugar Basketballs Just Wright has yet to be determined, but apparently they were quite cozy. So cozy in fact that they were reported to be togethertogether, a rumor Lathan quickly shut down. 

From her Twitter feed

Can a girl have some fun at a jayz/kanye concert w/out being linked 2 a breakup? I AM NOT, NEVER HAVE BEEN, INVOVLED W/KOBE IN ANY WAY.

Whether they’re actually an item or not doesn’t matter to or interest me. They’re both rich, famous, black, and named after yoga poses, so I guess they’d be a good match. What does interest me, though, is the assumption that Kobe wouldn’t touch Sanaa in a million years, a sentiment she reiterated in her next tweet.

@justsanaa: Anybody who pays attention knows I’m not his type… Blank stare. #blackgirlsrock #dontbelievethelies¹

What exactly was she getting at? I mean, we’re all pretty certain that, despite his propensity for prolonged bitchassness, Kobe isn’t homosexual. He definitely does like women, so why wouldn’t he be interested in a woman as good-looking as Sanaa Lathan?

Ohhh, I get it now. Kobe was married to a non-black woman for a decade. This must mean that he’s definitely, automatically, unequivocally, and unquestionably not attracted to black women at all.

Now, I don’t know Kobe at all. He may very well hate black women with the white hot heat of 1000 AKA thongs. His favorite movies might be “The Imitation of Life,” “Othello,” and “Jungle Fever,” and his favorite animal might be the panda bear. Who the hell knows? I do know, though, that the widely held “fact” that if a black man dates outside of his race, it automatically means he’s not into black women is completely f*cking wrong.

Admittedly, I do understand where this sentiment comes from and why it’s so widely held. Centuries of having to deal with people like Satoshi Kanazawa can produce a circle-the-wagons mentality where any affront to black women’s desirability — real or perceived — is met with immediate rebuke. Also, there are some black men who, as soon as they reach a certain status level, put sistas on permanent “ignore.” (This doesn’t happen as often as many of us think it does, but it does happen.)

Thing is, this theory ignores two vital facts.

1. Proximity and availability are easily the two most important factors when men are choosing mates. If you see a black man with a non-black women, 9 times out of 10 it’ll be because she happened to be around, happened to be single, and happened to be interested in him. That’s it. No self-loathing. No hatred of black skin. No angry tweets about Michelle Obama’s gums.

And, most importantly…

2. Women are all the same. 

Now, I’ve made no secret of my love, adoration, and admiration of black women. I’m completely attracted to and infatuated with them. Sistas are the sh*t and sh*t.  But, when it comes down to what makes a woman a woman, I also do realize that black women, white women, Asian women, Hispanic women, Indian women, aboriginal women, and women from Detroit aren’t really all that different. Sure, from an individual perspective they all have their own personal quirks and characteristics and nuances, but collectively all chicks are pretty much the same. (I feel the exact same way about men, btw. Despite my world-renowned awesomeness, there’s really no difference between me and some random New Zealand-ass n*gga.) 

I’m bringing this up because, once you realize that women aren’t really all that different from each other, you start to see how a man could be equally attracted to Jill Scott and Natalie Portman. (If you think this is too far-fetched of a comparison, you obviously don’t know me very well, and you obviously didn’t click on those last two links) In fact, you start to understand how a man could date/marry a white women even if he’s still much more attracted to sistas. Sh*t, I love female teachers, but that doesn’t mean that I’d never date a lawyer. (That last analogy was much more clever in my head than it is on screen, but I think you get my point.)

Anyway, people of VSB.com, I’m curious: When you see a black man with a non-black woman, do you automatically assume he’s just not that into sistas? Do you think you’re right to feel that way? If so, why, and how many hugs did you miss as a child?

¹This tweet has since been deleted

—The Champ

No Pre-Nupt? No Problem

The NBA: Where putting a million-dollar ring on it to postpone something that's going to happen in seven years anyway, happens.

“30 years ago, everyone at this table would have either been married with kids or thought to be thoroughly f*cked up or gay if they weren’t married with kids yet.”

A friend of mine made this point after observing the demographics — 12 people, all between 27 and 34, all with decent incomes, and none of us had children or had been married — of the get-together we happened to be at. While her assertion may have been a tad off (I’d say those things were true 50 years ago instead of 30), her point — that more and more of us are waiting longer to start families (if deciding to start them at all)is definitely true. A quick glance at Google, the evening news, or the VSB archives confirms it, as study after study has shown that this phenomenon is actually affecting everyone (yes. even white people) 

But while this trend is generally thought to be a bad thing, I don’t share that sentiment. Sure, perhaps the more successful of us could reproduce a bit more to balance out the collective spawns of Jethro and Hen-Rockeisha stealing Duracells and beef jerky from rest stop gas stations, but there are already 7 billion gotdamn people on the planet. I doubt the world is going to come to an end if one or one thousand master degreed motherf*ckers decide to opt out of having children.

Also — and this is a point we always seem to forget — out of the people you know who are currently engaged/married, how many of those relationships would you actually categorize as “good?” Seriously, I bet if each of us were to think of 10 couples currently in serious relationships (and “serious” is defined as “been together for at least a year”) and were asked to make bets on how long each relationship was going to last, we’d give at least 6 of them “a year, tops“….and we’d be right. That’s not even counting the horrifically mismatched motherf*ckers who’ve stayed a couple because they’re scared to break up with each other.

You can make the argument that we’re reading the stats the wrong way. Too many people are in relationships/married that clearly have no business being together, and more and more of us are starting to realize this to be true. Perhaps we’re actually trending upward.

Anyway, I’m sure you’ve all heard that everyone’s favorite least favorite athlete is breaking up with his wife. Apparently, she just became fed up with the fact that he couldn’t keep in his pants. ***Insert joke about Mexican women, black mambas, and underbites.***

Now, an uber-popular professional athlete repeatedly cheating on his wife is about as dog bites man-ey as a news story gets. But, the part of this situation that seems to have the most people taking is the fact that Kobe did not have a pre-nuptial agreement in place. His wife will receive half of his net worth — which is reported to be roughly 150 million dollars — and may be able to receive spousal support for the next 450 or so years.

Whether the former Mrs. Bryant actually deserves that money has been argued and debated ad nauseum, but the general sentiment about Kobe not asking her to sign a pre-nupt can be summed up in nine words: “He’s a gotdamn f*cking idiot…and an anal rapist” 

I disagree. Not with the anal raping part, of course. (Just to be clear, I do disagree with anal rape in general. Down with anal rape and sh*t.) I don’t think that not signing a pre-nupt makes him an idiot.¹ 

We all have the benefit of hindsight, allowing us to determine today that him not making his (then) 18 year old wife sign a pre-nuptial agreement in 2001 was clearly an idiotic move. At the same time, though, if you love someone enough to legally and spiritually commit the rest of your life to them, doesn’t a pre-nupt cheapen that entire process? Aren’t you basically saying “I love the sh*t out of you, and I want to spend the rest of eternity with you. I’ll carry you to Heaven, and, if need be, I’ll even follow you to Hell. Buuuuut, I’m a need you to sign this paper real quick just in case that whole loving the sh*t out of you thing doesn’t work. Deal?”

I know many of you (and by “you” I mean “the men reading this“) are probably thinking “That’s easy for you to say, Champ. I don’t know what your bank account looks like, but I’m pretty certain you aint worth 150 mil.” Thing is — and Chris Rock already made this point in one of his comedy specials — my relatively minuscule bank account actually makes a pre-nupt more sensible for me. I think Kobe will be ok with his 75 mil. But, if me or any of the rest of the 40 to 100 thousand dollar a year n*ggas reading this were forced to give half away, we’d have good motive to kill someone.

With that being said, I’d still never ask a woman to sign a pre-nupt. While some consider that piece of paper to be protection, I think it just exposes doubt. Perhaps I’m just hopelessly romantic (possible) or just dangerously naive (very possible), but I believe that if there’s any doubt then your ass just don’t need to be together at all.

As I stated before, there are already too many not really ready to be married motherf*ckers walking down the alter and taking up precious Jet magazine space. Why even make that step if you’re not willing to put all of your chips in?

¹Having unprotected anal sex with a woman you just met 20 minutes ago does, though

—The Champ

***If you get a minute, check out “The Conversation: Let’s Talk About Race” — a (duh) on-going conversation about race I’m having at The Good Men Project with author Andrew Cotto.***

It’s On You, Too: Why you’re (somewhat) responsible for your mate’s actions

Tyson vs Spinks. Obama vs Osama. The Giant Meteorite vs The Dinosaurs. Sobriety vs Whitney. Life vs Joe Budden.

History is filled with numerous examples of complete landslides; hilariously unbalanced contests where one party was entirely overmatched against the other. Sunday afternoon bared witness to another such debacle as the Dallas Mavericks mollywhopped, mushed, and humiliated the Los Angeles Lakers, beating the defending champs by 30 points in a game that was equal parts conclusion of the Lakers’ reign and culmination of everything current Laker haters hate about these current Lakers.

Yet, while the Lakers were definitely outclassed on the court, their issues seemed to run deeper than basketball. Something had been “off” about them for the past month or so, something that clearly seemed to affect their will to compete. And while the common idea was that this malaise was the result of them becoming too self-satisfied and too Hollywood with too many off-court distractions (ie: The Lamar and Khloe show, Ron Artest doing Ron Artest things, etc), another possible reason for their competitive melancholy surfaced this week.

From “Divided Lakers simply get lost on way to three-peat”

Perhaps more than anything, the notion that Pau Gasol can be this team’s next great leader was swept away. His sudden and odd postseason disappearance was the most obvious reason for the Lakers’ troubles, his fall completed Sunday when he scored 10 points while being pushed around by everyone but his coach, who thankfully refrained from hitting him for a second consecutive game.

“I have to learn from this,” Gasol said. ”I have to learn that when something happens off the court, you have to keep it off the court.”

He was referring to the report that he stopped talking to Bryant during the postseason because Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, had contributed to the breakup of Gasol and his longtime girlfriend. Lakers fans will remember that Karl Malone once publicly accused Vanessa of interfering with his personal life in a similar fashion.

Whatever was happening, Bryant and Gasol haven’t connected on the court in a month, and the Lakers have been lost without the strength of their fusion.

Although this article doesn’t explicitly state it, apparently the full story is that Vanessa Bryant (Kobe’s wife)  “befriended” Silvia Lopez Castro (Pau’s fiancee) and allowed a couple stories/rumors about Pau’s infidelity to slip out. Enraged and embarrassed, she broke up with Pau. And, after learning exactly where Silvia got her info from, Pau — one of the top 15 players in the NBA — mentally and emotionally withdrew from the team in general and Kobe in particular.

When first hearing about this entire mess, two questions immediately came to mind.

1. Has there ever been a more snitching-ass household than the Bryants? My goodness. They make the Macbeths look like the f*cking Cosbys. Sh*t, now I know why they call Kobe’s ass The Black Mamba, cause befriending him or his wife is like buying one for a pet

And, most importantly…

2. Should Kobe be responsible for the actions of his wife?

Remember, Kobe’s wife ratted Pau out, not Kobe. But, this act made Pau also feel a certain way about Kobe, and I get exactly where he’s coming from.¹

You can argue that what a person’s significant other does is completely independent of that person. I mean, unless you’re the Christies, even the most close-knit couples spend time apart and (should) have completely independent thoughts and actions. Shit, if Lady Champ decides to start robbing banks, my ass aint the one that’s going to be at Muncy State Correctional Institution for Women. (Unless, of course, I’m there for conjugal visits and the cupcakes from the lesbian ward)

But, Cinemax-inspired women’s prisons fantasies aside, it’s hard for me to imagine that Kobe was completely unaware of the rumors his wife was spreading, especially since there’s a 99.999999% chance that Kobe himself was the source of the rumor. Even taking gossip out of the equation, (right or wrong) who you choose to be your significant other is a reflection of your values, mores, and priorities, and if I find out that your boo is murdering and raping everybody out there, you better believe that I’m probably going to cancel your invite to weekly wing night too. It aint that hard to find another spades partner.

For the record, I have absolutely no problem with couples sharing gossip with each other. I know we (Lady Champ and I) do, and when I tell one of my booed-up homeboys something, I just go ahead and make the assumption that I’m telling his entire household, pets included. But, when you share gossip you should also share the consequences if that gossip happens to leak, a lesson Kobe and the Lakers had to learn the hard way.

Anyway, people of VSB.com, do you think that a person should be at least somewhat responsible for the actions of their significant other? If you were in Pau’s shoes, would you have given Kobe the cold shoulder too? If a black Laker makes an eerie overbite face in the woods, would Artest make a sound?

The carpet is yours.

***9:00am edit: Well, now Pau Gasol is deny that anything happened between his fiancee and Vanessa Bryant, and that things are all hunky-dory between these four. Personally, I think he needs more people. But, just in case that the scenario in today’s post didn’t actually happen, for the sake of discussion let’s just pretend that it did***

¹You could also say that, regardless of what happened off the court, Pau should have manned up, blocked that shit out, and done his job. I understand this sentiment. Anyone who’s ever played on a sports team knows that shit aint always Kumbaya. Sometimes you’ll be legitimately pissed at your teammates, and sometimes you might just have a teammate you just don’t f*ck with at all. When it’s game time, though, you usually find a way to get past that and compete as a team.

What makes this situation different, though, is that — if the rumors are true — Pau has legitimate reason to think that someone in the Bryant household sabotaged his life, and I totally get how that could make someone lose the type of on court trust that all successful teams are supposed have.

—The Champ

If you haven’t purchased the paperback or the $9.99 Kindle version of “Your Degrees Wont Keep You Warm at Night: The Very Smart Brothas Guide to Dating, Mating, and Fighting Crime” yet, what the hell is stopping you? (No, seriously. Tell us and we’ll send Liz’s boobs to fix it)

kobe and me: why we root for people to fail

from his tendency to pout and throw visible temper tantrums to the fact that i think he’s legitimately certifiable (regardless of whether you think he should have been convicted of rape, you have to admit it’s nucking futs to try to have raw anal sex with someone you’ve never even met before), i have many good reasons to not be a big fan of kobe bryant.

this fact by itself isn’t ground-breaking. there are many people, from certain neighbors and baristas to r. kelly fans and people who act like they’re from harlem¹, that i’m not particularly fond of. this doesn’t necessarily mean that i dislike them; i just regard them with a bit of a “we don’t really need to share the same space” apathy. basically, i’d (probably) call for help if i witnessed them being mugged, but i’d also (probably) lie if the police asked me to provide a description of the mugger.

what makes my feelings for kobe notable is the fact that i actively root for him to fail. when i watch the lakers play, i want him to freeze out his teammates and inspire 5,000 “when will kobe finally get it?” articles the next day. i want whoever he’s guarding to score on him. i want him to force phil jackson to make phil jackson faces, and i want him to give charles barkley acid reflux. i want them to beat phoenix, just because i know that a loss to the celtics in the finals would be more devastating.

don’t get me wrong. this isn’t an iago/othello or stringer/omar level of distaste. i won’t lose any sleep if the lakers win the title, and i don’t wish any non-basketball adversity on kobe.

usually feelings like this are dismissed as “hating”, but there’s nothing about kobe that makes him more enviable than a hundred other millionaire superstar athletes. i think kobe’s status and success is well-deserved and appropriate. i just don’t want him to succeed on the basketball court.

this type of personal animus isn’t uncommon. the hundreds of thousands of blogs, articles, facebook status messages, and tweets clowning lebron james in the past two weeks proves that. in fact, i’d wager that everyone reading this has a person in mind whose failure would make the sun shine a little bit brighter that day.

what i’ve been trying to understand is why? what makes us derive happiness from the pain of others, even if their success (or lack thereof) has no real bearing on us or our lives?

the easy reason is that it makes you feel better about yourself, but i think it goes a bit deeper than that.

a) you perceive them to be in direct competition with someone you support

this actually gives a valid explanation for my feelings about kobe. for the past three years or so he’s been locked in a mythical death match with lebron james for the “best baller on earth” title. and, as a lebron james fan, any success kobe has is a mark against lebron’s candidacy. if he “wins”, the person i’ve been supporting “loses”, and i’ve come to realize that my particular form of kobeanimus stems from me just not wanting to be wrong².

b) they represent something you despise

a great recent example of this theory in action is the 2007 kanye west/50 cent soundscan battle. if you recall, 50 challenged kanye to a “who will sell the most records the first week” contest, and even stated that he’d retire from the rap game if he lost.

now, i don’t dislike 50 cent’s music. i actually think that “what up gangsta” is the best album intro song in hip-hop history, and i can honestly say that i’m convinced that 50 would be cooler in person than kanye.

but, the fact that i despise what the idea of 50 cent represents made me root for his spectacular failure. it wasn’t enough for kanye to win; i wanted 50 to be humbled and embarrassed.

c) you don’t actually dislike them that much. you just root against them because you hate the type of people who blindly support them

***anyone who’s ever been forced to converse with any laker, yankee, or cowboy fans, beyonce stans, members of the pandering patchouli and incense crowd, tea baggers, and anyone who’s ever defended a bush is nodding their heads in silent agreement***

d) they’re asking for it

admittedly, i can understand why so many people seemed to be so happy about lebron’s recent playoff mishaps. if you allow yourself to be referred to as “the king“, you leave yourself open for criticism.

e) they actually were in direct competition with you….a long, long time ago

this sounds like its too silly to actually be true…until you remember than you can probably name at least five or six people in your address book who still hold serious grudges with people over not being voted the junior homecoming queen in 1999.

anyway, people of vsb.com: can you add any more insight? why do you think we root for others to fail, even if that other might not even know that we exist? also, can you name anyone who inspires this type of feeling in you?

we’re all fam and sh*t. don’t be scurred

¹this doesn’t mean that i dislike people from harlem, just people who act “harlem”. in fact, you don’t even have to be from harlem to act harlem. this makes perfect sense to me, so i really don’t care if it makes sense to you.
²i’ve also come to realize that this idiotic kobeanimus makes me sound like a 14 year white kid from poughkeepsie, new york, and i’m trying to make amends to rectify it.

—the champ

[***Admin Note: On June 3rd in New York City, The Champ will be on a panel with a few other "relationship experts" to talk about relationships, love, sex, and all that other good stuff, and he'd greatly appreciate your support. Go to moderndaymatchmaker.eventbrite.com for more details.
Also, if you're planning on attending, please buy your tickets with the promotional code "VSB" to receive a 20% discountTickets are almost sold out, so it's probably not the best idea to wait for the last minute to purchase. Thanks!***]