“Kobe is super arrogant but everybody loves him,” Mahinmi said. “To me, Kobe is more arrogant (than LeBron James).”
A couple things: First, the notion this qualifies as a serious incident of loose lipped, reckless Mamba poking is a little silly. We will be treated to no grand feud between Bryant and Mahinmi next season, largely because it's very possible Kobe couldn't pick him out of a lineup unless Mahinmi was wearing his uniform. Second, I'm not even sure it was intended to be smack talk, and third, does anyone really believe a comment from Ian Mahinmi will somehow make Kobe Bryant more motivated to beat the Mavs or win a title? Really?
But more importantly, I'm trying to pinpoint the insult. Had Mahinmi declared the sky blue, his statement (the first half, at least) wouldn't be any less self-evident. Of course Kobe Bryant is arrogant. There's an arrogance- call it ego if you prefer- to his game, a contempt for opponents and those who have slighted him (whether in perception or reality) hardwired into his basketball DNA, and a belief his ability can always carry the day. Most pros will tell you a certain level of arrogance/ego is required to get where they are, and a lot more is required to get to Kobe's level. It has undoubtedly complicated things for him and comes with negatives (both on the court and in how he's perceived off it), but without it, I doubt he has five rings.
We have a tendency in sports coverage to pick one aspect of someone's personality and define them by it. Arrogance doesn't make Kobe a horrible person, and it's hardly the only reason he's been so successful.As for the LeBron comparison, it's reasonable to ask whether LBJ might benefit from a touch more arrogance-- more of the right kind, at least.