April 6, 2006
... And We Wouldn’t Mind $100 Million
Lakers' basketball star Kobe Bryant "wouldn't mind being Jewish."
Bryant, who is Catholic, reportedly told a handful of reporters in Boston last month that, "I wouldn't mind. Really."
Well, why not? It's fine by us.
The topic arose during a good-natured exchange with reporters during the Lakers' late March appearance for a game in Boston. Of the game, the Los Angeles Times reported that Bryant scored 43 points, including the Lakers' last 14, on 18-for-39 shooting in a 105-97 victory over the Celtics at TD Banknorth Garden. All this after a fan had foolishly taunted Bryant when seeing him at a local movie theater.
But the Times completely missed the Jewish angle, which was first reported in the Jerusalem Post.
A television reporter had asked on camera about the dearth of professional Jewish athletes.
"Not too many Jews in professional sports? Hmmm," Bryant said. "That sounds kind of weird to me. Who did your research?"
Reeling from Bryant's caustic tone, the TV reporter changed the topic to MVP talk.
A Jewish journalist from The Boston Globe, however, returned to the subject.
"We are very good at squash," she insisted, adding "there were three hockey players at my college who were Jewish."
"How 'bout that? All on one team," Bryant said.
"The Red Sox have four Jews including [general manager] Theo Epstein," another Jewish reporter added.
"What the hell? Who was doing your research?" Bryant asked the TV reporter "semifacetiously," as the Post put it. "Put the camera back on, man. This guy is false man. This guy is lyin'."
The inevitable recitation followed as reporters volunteered names: Dolph Schayes (Bryant threw in Dolph's son Danny) and Jon Scheyer, a top Duke University recruit for next year....
"You're getting shot down all over the place right now, buddy," Bryant said. "It ain't lookin' too good for you at all."
Sandy Koufax. Hank Greenberg.
"Oh it ain't lookin' too good for you at all," he continued.
According to www.jewsinsports.org (Is there a mormonsinsports.org or a shiitesinsports.org?): There are no Jews currently in the NBA, but 24 in the National Football League, 18 in Major League Baseball and seven in the National Hockey League.
Bryant could claim the mantle as the highest-profile athlete to convert to Judaism. Baseball great Rod Carew married a Jewish woman and raised his children Jewish, but never actually joined the tribe.
Bryant, however, dispelled the notion of displacing Schayes as the greatest Jewish basketball player. "I don't know if I'm converting, but if I do, you can definitely add another athlete to the pool," he said.