Kobe has much company in world of selfish athlete

THE BALTIMORE SUN

WITH THE SEASON of giving just concluded, and with the world exhibiting tremendous generosity in its response to the South Asia tsunami, it would be cynical and hard-hearted to devote this much space to the truly selfish among us. The Kobe-esque, if you will.

However, it would also be fun. Not to mention wholly fitting, at least in the realm of sports.

Besides, there's never a bad time to give Kobe Bryant his proper due as the most selfish team-sports athlete of our time, possibly of all time. Sure, it's been a while since he publicly accused his most (only?) supportive former teammate of hitting on his wife, a little longer since he singlehandedly dismantled the NBA's last dynasty, and more than a year since he tried to evade a rape charge by telling the cops that a less-friendly ex-teammate paid off victims in similar circumstances all the time.

That blend of insincerity, self-absorption, entitlement and unbridled ego never goes out of style, though. And it definitely sets the standard by which all other selfish acts and actors should be judged.

Such a standard demands a rating system, preferably one less complicated than the BCS (a rare example of collective Kobe-ism). Thus, we present the Kobe Scale, rating selfishness from one Kobe (say, a run-of-the-mill contract holdout) to five (Kobe himself).

Understand, of course, that all athletes at that level have high opinions of themselves, so that alone doesn't earn you Kobes. Also, it's important to distinguish this category from those involving people and organizations who talk too much, do dumb things, act incompetently or act crazy. Those deserve separate systems, and who's got time to rate them all? Especially now that the new season of 24 has started.

This runs much deeper, to a level of selfishness that betrays and damages teammates, franchises and fans that count on the perpetrators. It's a fine line, but when it's crossed, you know it.

Randy Moss crossed it. He walked off the field with two seconds left in a game his Vikings needed desperately to win, while they were attempting to get the ball back for one last shot. That earned him 3 1/2 Kobes, and the touchdown "celebration" yesterday bumps him up to four.

How other notables rate:

Shaun Alexander: Chose a post-game interview after his Seahawks clinched the division title and a home playoff game to claim his coach "stabbed him in the back" by not giving him the ball and getting him a share of the NFL rushing title. Three Kobes.

Terrell Owens: Took time off from rehabbing his ankle last week to tell a Philadelphia newspaper that he didn't get the ball enough in the latter stages of the regular season, adding, "Maybe me being out right now is another way for [the Eagles] to see my value to the team." Three Kobes, only because it's not even the most inexcusable thing he's said this season.

Sidney Ponson: OK, getting arrested in the offseason is pretty routine. The fact that it was in Aruba, and that both a Jet Ski and a prison escape were involved, adds crucial levity. But his assault trial, scheduled for March, is sure to disrupt the Orioles' spring training and be a pain for everybody involved. Sound familiar? Two Kobes.

Ron Artest: Easily four Kobes. This isn't solely for the fight in Auburn Hills; at least he was somewhat provoked into that. Far worse was his earlier attempt to get time off during the season because he was exhausted from producing a musical act. Too bad he didn't get it, though; in his absence, his boxscore line might have read DNP-CDP (Did Not Play -- CD Promotion).

(Brief digression: why did Artest leave the game early? So he could beat the crowd. By far, the best fight-related joke I've heard so far - actually, the only one, but it's worth it.)

Doug Mientkiewicz: Three Kobes. As has been suggested, there's nothing intrinsically wrong with wanting to keep the Red Sox's curse-breaking baseball. In fact, he gets bonus points for causing this much discomfort to the Sox organization (three Kobes, if only for waiting 12 years after Jackie Robinson's debut to integrate).

However, in explaining why, he played the "family" card. "That's my retirement fund," he said. "I'm thinking, there's four years at Florida State for one of my kids. At least."

In case you were wondering, his current contract, signed before last season, could pay him nearly $11 million through 2006. Now we know how to pronounce his last name: it rhymes with "Sprewell." Who, by the way, is a career 3 1/2 -Kobe guy. Not only is Mientkiewicz a pig, he's a copycat pig (or, a copypig).

By the way, it appears that Kobe still hasn't found Shaquille O'Neal's number so he can apologize to him for that Colorado police thing. Hmmm. That's worth six Kobes.

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