They Are Not Who I Thought They Were

LOS ANGELES CA - FEBRUARY 20: Chris Paul #3 of the New Orleans Hornets and the Western Conference talks with Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers and the Western Conference in the 2011 NBA All-Star Game at Staples Center on February 20 2011 in Los Angeles California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and or using this photograph User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

First post in a couple of weeks due to a variety of reasons, but I'm back and ready to once again make you guys weep with enjoyment. Seriously though, all feedback is appreciated. Tweet me: @Paul_Sondhi or e-mail me: paulsondhi1@yahoo.com.

I consider myself an optimist of some sort. No, not the "glass half-full" optimist, but the "everybody has some good in them" optimist. That's why two recent incidents involving high-profile NBA players have me completely rethinking what I used to perceive NBA players as.

The first of these events is detailed in an ESPN article, which recounts some questions our own Chris Paul was asked at a recent Jordan Brand event:

"It would definitely be something to think about," the New Orleans guard said Tuesday when asked about the potential to sign with the Jordan-owned Charlotte Bobcats in 2012. "But right now it's all about trying to win a championship here with the Hornets."

By now I'm sure you've read or heard these comments. While the headline is definitely manipulation by the media and an attempt to make something out of nothing, I still have problems with these comments. It's not Paul's fault that someone asked him this question, but it is his fault that he answered the question in a way which leads people to question his motive.

With all due respect to the Bobcats, CP3 will have more enticing options than Charlotte in the summer of 2012. But, to answer the question with "something to think about" instead of "that's two years from now" is frustrating. Maybe it's because of this guy, but I've come to the conclusion that it's really me. Let's face it, nobody is perfect (how I hate cliches). For me to expect Paul to answer every question with a concise, all-about-the-Hornets response is unreasonable, but that won't stop me from hoping that he will.

Why is this, you may ask?

It's because athletes, especially favorite athletes, are role models. At any age, one can be captivated by an athlete that does spectacular things which we could never imagine doing. For example, that dunk Blake Griffin just pulled off on the fastbreak has my jaw to the floor right now.

Athletes are different role models than dads or uncles. Most of us will never get the fortunate opportunity to meet the athletes we see on TV every night, and for that reason we always  hope that they are great people on and off the court. When Paul answered that question in the way he did, it did indeed upset me a bit. Sure, he has shown this side before (see: September), but I'll never stop hoping he remains loyal to a fanbase and a community that has cherished him for six years. His reply didn't show disloyalty, but it definitely didn't convince anybody who was hoping to see a more direct answer that contained some disdain to the thought of leaving N'awlins.

But, like I said, it's unfair to expect Paul to always watch what he says for fear of alienating some of his fans. That's the lesson I've learned because of this: not everyone is as spotless as Albert Pujols.

I know what you're thinking, that's the what everybody finds out when they are a kid. Cut me some slack, I've got two more years to get out of this pressure cooker known as high school.

This revelation leads me to the insensitive and uncalled for slur that Kobe Bryant directed towards an official Tuesday night. Again, by now I'm sure you've lipread what Kobe uttered out of frustration. He was rightly fined $100,000 by the league late Wednesday for his disrespectful mistake. We all know Kobe knows better than that; he's been around the block enough to know what is tolerable and what has no place on and off the court. I can also accept that he may have not meant the understood malice which comes with that word. But, what I don't and refuse to welcome is his crappy "apology" (via ESPN):

"What I said last night should not be taken literally," he said. "My actions were out of frustration during the heat of the game, period. The words expressed do NOT reflect my feelings towards the gay and lesbian communities and were NOT meant to offend anyone."

OK Kobe, so you don't have any hatred towards the gay and lesbian communities and didn't mean to hurt anyone's feelings. But, where is the "I deeply regret what I said" or the "I'm truly sorry for saying a derogatory and disgusting term"? Instead, we get another athlete avoiding what he said and not taking responsibility. At least Chris Paul had the, ahem, cajones to address what he said and the fact that they were taken out of context. Kobe tip-toes around the subject and doesn't give the expected, and necessary, response.

You're Kobe effin' Bryant! You've been accused of rape and constantly called an ass by bloggers galore. Above all that, you're a role model. This isn't over-analyzing a response to a lose-lose question, but this is a social and political subject which you just decided to put beneath yourself. Make any shot you want, win as many rings as you can, but Kobe, you still have kids my age and younger who look up to you and emulate you on a daily basis. Do you not have a conscience? I'm less than half your age and I even I can see the wrong you've done, and the correct way to rectify it. You're too busy screaming at a teammate for a poor decision and not realizing that you need to stop settling so much during crunch-time.

But, I digress. After all, we chose them as role models. Not the other way around.

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