S.L. Price Talks about Dwyane Wade vs. Kobe Bryant

Remember when Dwyane Wade was named Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated? S.L. Price wrote an amazing article about Wade that at the time I called the definitive Wade article. It's that good.

Price is about to do a reading in New York, and recently explained his work in an excellent Q+A with Gelf Magazine. (He even addresses, to my satisfaction at least, the "shouldn't Roger Federer have gotten that award?" debate.)

Gelf Magazine: You wrote, "Wade made it safe, for perhaps the first time since number 23 retired, to compare a guard with Michael and not risk embarrassment." I understand the Harold Miner/Penny Hardaway part of this, but here's the obvious question: What about Kobe Bryant?

S.L. Price: As a pure talent, Kobe is unassailable. My point was two-fold. One, no matter how well Kobe played, it was Shaq's team; he was the focus and psychic base of every team he's played for until now. Second, it's rare for many reasons to have a championship team built around a scoring guard—he needs to get his to be who he is, after all, and that doesn't exactly lend itself to keeping other guys happy. Jordan pulled it off, and the negatives in his personality were not large enough to undermine him. The negatives in Kobe's personality, public and private, have kept him from reaching Jordan's level on and off the court. Wade, not only with his heroics, but with his ability to get his teammates within the flow—exactly like Jordan—and keep his teammates overjoyed is the first since Jordan to have the heft and will to pull that off. To me, anyway.

GM: Why are people so drawn to athletes who have had a rough family life? Is one reason people like Wade more than Kobe because Kobe comes from a privileged background?

SP: No. This is why people like sports: Because the game reveals people in spite of themselves, their marketing, etc. I don't think people dislike Kobe because of his background; his background, Italy and all, son of a player, is quite intriguing. It's that he plays like a selfish assassin most of the time, seems to be all about Kobe in the end, and his team-breaking tiff with Shaq—seemingly putting himself above the idea of more championships—ran contrary to everything we think pro sports should be about: winning. The court case in Colorado, of course, for some only seemed to confirm what Kobe had already revealed about himself on the basketball court.