An exchange between Kobe Bryant and Timberwolves rook Ricky Rubio has been making the viral rounds. After the Laker victory in Minnesota on Saturday, Bryant spotted Rubio and Pau Gasol talking and congratulated the kid on a game well played. From there, the following chatter, as seen on Tuesday's "Around the Horn," commenced.
Kobe: "You talking about London (where the 2012 Olympics will be played)?"
Rubio: "You gonna be there?"
Kobe: "[Expletive] yeah, I'm gonna be there."
Rubio: "You're gonna get that silver medal."
Kobe: "[Looooooong drawn out expletive.] I'm taking bets. I'm taking bets."
Rubio: "I bet you won't."
Kobe: "If I win, I get the key to Barcelona."
Rubio: "I bet what you want."
Kobe: "I'll take it."
The natural inclination for some will be to treat this as trash talk bound to blow up this summer, as Chris Rock would say, "like The Godfather." But it's fairly mild and playful. Kobe's expressed admiration for the Spanish phenom after previous Olympic mano y' mano's, and the two are slapping hands and having fun. Plus, Rubio still looks like a 15-year with a beard Krazy-Glued to his cheeks, which doesn't make him the ideal candidate for boiling blood.
Even acknowledging the competitive nature of both players (especially Bryant) and brashness required to even initiate a challenge towards The Mamba, we've hardly entered "Oh know, he didn't!!!" territory.
To me, the biggest takeaway is how Rubio got suckered by Kobe into an all-or-nothing bet. If Team USA wins, Rubio has to call in serious favors to various friends in high places, then deliver Barcelona's llave to Kobe. But if Spain takes the gold, Rubio might end up getting the key anyway after such a historic victory. Thus, Spain's paying the bet for Kobe, so what does he care? "Low risk, high reward" wagering at its best.
And that, my friends, is how a cagey veteran takes advantage of a pup still wet behind the ears.