Kobe Bryant said he would kneel for the national anthem if he was still playing in the NBA. During The Hollywood Reporter’s Chatter podcast, the 18-time All Star didn’t hesitate when asked what he would do during the anthem if he was playing tonight. “Kneel.”
Even though he retired in 20016, Kobe is still one of the most influential figures in the league. The five-time NBA champion wasn’t particularly outspoken on political issues during his playing career, but now that he’s off the hardwood, he’s got a little more time to focus on non-basketball issues.
Kobe knows what he means to the NBA. LeBron might be the face of the league in 2017, but no one’s forgotten the 20 years Kobe set the tone. Outside of Michael Jordan, who’s taken his fair share of heat for not being vocal on much besides selling shoes, Kobe is the most important basketball player of a generation.
The NBA is easily the most progressive pro sports league in America. It also sets the trends. Football may be king, monetarily, but basketball is the culture king. Kobe’s comments are keeping in lockstep with the organization that he’s devoted his entire adult life to.
2016’s ESPY awards featured four of the NBA’s biggest names — Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwayne Wade, and LeBron James — calling for dialogue and action to heal the wounds of our divided society.
— Boston Herald (@bostonherald) July 14, 2016
This offseason has been the most exciting in memory. The Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder added real firepower to contend with the world-beating Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference. The Celtics got arguably the league’s most dynamic young point guard in Kyrie Irving, and Philadelphia might be able to put a watchable product out on the court after adding number one overall pick Markelle Fultz to their war chest of young talent.
Kobe might not be in the league, but his fingerprints are still all over it. It’s good hear him saying things that are going to resonate with NBA players. The Black Mamba can still help set the tone for the league, and while his on-court legacy is secure, he has the opportunity to follow in the footsteps Laker great Magic Johnson, and become a larger-than-life figure off the court.