Posts Tagged ‘michael irvin’

Still No Love For Kobe In Philly

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Kobe Bryant is just 24 points shy of passing Shaquille O’Neal for fifth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.

Fifth all-time!

That he could reach that milestone a short train ride away from where he cut his teeth as a high school basketball star would seem like the ideal way for things to play out tonight when Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers face the Philadelphia 76ers, except for that little issue the city of Philadelphia has with one of its greatest exports.

Bryant is loathed by sports fans in the city. So if he does pass O’Neal tonight, don’t expect a fireworks show or a standing ovation for the pride of Lower Merion High. Because, as Philadelphia Daily News columnist John Smallwood, no one wears the black hat in Philadelphia better than Bryant:

He is unquestionably one of the most despised athletes in Philadelphia history.

Just last week, Bryant was ranked at No. 2 in the Comcast SportsNet series of the Top 20 All-Time Philadelphia Villains. Only the Dallas Cowboys of the 1990s, with Jerry Jones, Jimmy Johnson, Michael Irvin and Troy Aikman, topped him.

Listen to sports talk radio today and don’t be surprised if venom spewed about Bryant generates more air time than the results of Super Bowl XVLI.

That’s just the way it’s been between Philadelphia and Bryant.

If you’ve ever wondered where that chip on Bryant’s shoulder comes from, just take a look at the peculiar relationship he has with his hometown and it might make sense to you.

Bryant left for Italy, where his father was a pro star, when he was just 6. He returned for high school, though, and that’s easily the most crucial time for a budding star to bond with the hometown fans. But he had more doubters as a 17-year-old declaring for the draft than he had supporters.

(If only they knew the things he would do in his career …)

The relationship never healed. Bryant helped the Lakers to that 2001 NBA title over the Allen Iverson-led Sixers, a title clinched on hometown soil, and then there was that nasty incident at the 2002 All-Star Game when he was booed after winning MVP honors.

If the Sixers keep him from getting loose tonight this whole story moves on the next stop and the dynamics change completely. But he’s had just four games all season where he didn’t score at least 24 points and he’s averaging 29.4 points per game … like we said, it’s going to be interesting to see what sort of reaction the folks at the Wells Fargo Center have tonight if Bryant has just an average night before the hometown fans.

Boos are fuel for Heat

PHILADELPHIA — They boo pretty harshly here in this city, and they treat the visiting teams even worse. Yes, Philly is notorious on players because everyone gets booed. Well, except one time, when a vicious hit nearly paralyzed Michael Irvin at the old Vet Stadium. Then there were cheers.

“They have a reputation,” said Chris Bosh.

But what Philly fans have discovered is LeBron James and company have been there, done that and definitely heard this and that. The Heat have a name for the hospitable (emphasis on “spit”) reception they get: fuel for thought. They channel all the hate on the road into positive energy, which of course only encourages more hate.

The road treatment Miami has received all season, which unofficially ranks as the harshest all-time in the NBA, prepared Miami for anything they may see in the post-season. What was once deemed a distraction by the Heat back in November and December has actually hardened them for the intensity of the playoffs. So something good did come from that profanity-filled first road game in Cleveland. And New York. And Boston. And … you get the idea.

If they indeed feed off it, as LeBron has said countless times, that makes them gluttons for punishment.

“It has brought us together as a team,” he said. “It’s made us tougher and more determined, when we’re on the road. We always expect the worst, so therefore we’re ready for the worst.”

At 28-13, the Heat tied the Mavericks for the best road record in the regular season. And the pressure is only intensified here in the playoffs, which of course didn’t affect LeBron and especially Wade in the fourth quarter of Game 3, when Miami pulled away at the Wells Fargo Center.

At this point, with the Heat up 3-0 on the Sixers, the fans at Wells Fargo probably won’t even bother wasting their breath for Game 4. The real test will come in the next round, should the Heat as expected play in Boston. Emotions will run high in that one, because the Celtics handled Miami fairly easily in the regular season, and because the Heat are the biggest threat to the defending East champs. Oh, and they hate LeBron in Boston, too. We should mention that.

“It’s nothing new to us,” said coach Erik Spoelstra.

A series with Boston could put an even hotter glare on LeBron, though, given how meekly and suspiciously he played last spring against the Celtics. He has demonstrated an ability to take it all in stride, even exchanging barbs with fans in Philly at one point. Of all the Heat players, LeBron takes the most abusive by far. And yet, by now you might say he “eats” well on the road, which is a feeding frenzy for him.