Kobe Bryant tied with Tiger Woods for top spot in popularity poll
The poll results reveal more about the fickle nature of sports fans than it really shows about the player himself. LeBron James dropped from third to sixth after facing nearly universal criticism by announcing his decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat in an hour-long special on ESPN. Woods dropped in popularity after reports surfaced about numerous affairs preceded his struggles on the course. And Bryant jumped from four to a first-place tie after winning his fifth NBA title.
It appeared Bryant wouldn't have been able to rebound after his public image took a beating for several instances. There was the Colorado incident in July 2003 in which he was charged with sexual assault, though the charges were later dropped. There was Bryant's tension with Shaquille O'Neal. There was the perception that Bryant couldn't lead a team. And then there was Bryant's radio tour in 2007 during which he seemingly changed his mind within hours at a time on whether he wanted the Lakers to trade him or not.
Since then, the Lakers have appeared in the last three NBA Finals and have won the last two. Even though there's been debate on whether Bryant's assorted injuries and age (31) have marked a decline in his game, a greater public appreciation for his dogged work ethic and fixation on titles coincided with James' struggles with carrying Cleveland in the postseason and ultimately his decision to join Miami.
As much as the poll reveals Bryant's ability to bounce back from adversity, the pendulum swing in public opinion clearly shows that winning cures all ills.
-- Mark Medina
Photo: Kobe Bryant holds up an NBA Championship trophy. Credit: Christina House / For The Times
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