When Jim Brown Slams Kobe Bryant, Black Men Lose

The Hall of Fame running back took the Lakers great to task, saying that he wasn’t in touch with the African-American community. Then Kobe responded.  

Jim Brown with Arsenio Hall
Jim Brown with Arsenio Hall YouTube

There are two types of running backs: those who get the ball and dance around in the backfield waiting for a bit of daylight so they can slide through unscathed, and those who take the ball and go busting into the defense, making a path by brute force.

Jim Brown was the second kind of running back.

Let’s get this clear from the break: Whether on the field or anywhere else in life, Jim Brown doesn’t dance for anybody.

Kobe Bryant dances on the court. He shimmies past defenders, glides through the air and two-steps his crossovers to leave defenders in his wake. But don’t get it twisted—just because Bryant moves gracefully on the court doesn’t mean he’s backing down from anybody.

This fight isn’t a new one between Brown and Bryant. It’s an old-guard vs. new-guard slugfest that lives in the black community. It’s Jesse Jackson vs. President Obama before he got elected, and it isn’t dependent on age so much as on ideology. (See Tavis Smiley vs. President Obama now.)

The crux of the problem—about which all would agree—is this: The black community, especially the black male community, is in trouble. What’s undecided is how do we get better. Run straight up the middle or dance around the sides, what’s clear is that both sides want to gain yards. What’s at odds is more a matter of style.

Brown’s statements about Kobe earlier this week weren’t shocking for a man who has always taken athletes to task. On The Arsenio Hall Show, Brown made it clear that he doesn’t consider Kobe to be a socially conscious black man.

“He is somewhat confused about culture, because he was brought up in another country,” Brown said. (Bryant spent part of his childhood in Italy, where his father played professional basketball.) “[Bryant] doesn’t quite fit what’s happening in America.”