NBA

Will divorce affect Kobe's play?

Kobe and Vanessa Bryant
Vanessa Bryant filed for divorce after being married to Kobe for more than 10 years.
Share This Story

Billy Witz

Billy Witz has contributed to The New York Times and covered a multitude of sporting events. A Tulane University grad, Witz has won Associated Press Sports Editor awards for investigative reporting, feature writing and game stories. He covered the Lakers' every move last season for FOX Sports West.

MORE>>
   
 

It looked like a rough week for Kobe Bryant, who has watched Chris Paul go from being on his way to the Lakers to heading across the hall to the Clippers, Lamar Odom get shipped out of town, and then wondered aloud if there was any sort of plan by the Lakers to win another championship.

EX-FACTOR

Celebrity couples often don't have a Hollywood ending. Check out sports couples who split up.

As it turns out, it was even worse off the court for Bryant, whose wife Vanessa filed for divorce Friday, citing irreconcilable differences.

In a statement released by a representative of the couple, the Bryants “ask that in the interest of our young children and in light of the upcoming holiday season, the public respect our privacy during a difficult time.”

Good luck with that happening.

Athletes get married and divorced frequently enough, some messier and some more prurient than others. But given Bryant’s well-publicized history – he acknowledged prior infidelity when he was fighting sexual-assault charges eight years ago – and his standing as an NBA cornerstone, Bryant now is ensured of being the NBA’s defining narrative this season.

LeBron James wearing the black hat?

Not anymore.

The Clippers turning L.A. into Lob City?

Yesterday’s news.

Whether the Lakers are able to shrug off the disappointments of losing Odom and losing out on Paul, and still win another title, now will be viewed through the prism of Bryant’s personal life.

kim

WAG-tastic!

Check out the lovely ladies of the NBA's all-WAGs team.

Bryant is the NBA’s most popular player, no matter the metric: merchandise sales or fans in opposing arenas often chanting M-V-P when he steps to the free-throw line.

If fans might have been charmed by the site of Bryant walking out of Staples Center with his wife and young daughters in tow, they also know better than to interpret it as a sign of a happy family.

Now, as people may read the more salacious details as they come out – TMZ reported that Vanessa believed Kobe was unfaithful – their view of Bryant as a man may change.

But at its core, this divorce really isn’t any different than a more celebrated – and surely more costly and contentious – case in Los Angeles, the McCourts.

All fans really care about is whether it affects the team.

If the McCourt case prevented the Dodgers payroll from rising, fans were just as irate as they will be if Bryant starts clanking 3-pointers.

Pau Gasol acknowledged his poor playoff performance might have been due in part to gossip reports – which he said were untrue – that his girlfriend had broken up with him.

Not that this endeared him to fans when the Lakers struggled to beat New Orleans and were swept by Dallas.

bracket

YOUR BEST SHOT

Can Kobe measure up to MJ? We rank the top 10 shooting guards in NBA history.

A much younger Bryant went through much more severe circumstances in 2003-04, when he shuttled back and forth to Eagle, Colo. His ability to compartmentalize then – when he would routinely fly in from a court hearing that day and drop a spectacular performance that night – was captivating, if exhausting.

So, if there is little doubt that Bryant can handle any turmoil away from the court, what about others?

Phil Jackson isn’t around to gauge the team’s pulse and provide a measure of reassurance. And it’s doubtful that Mike Brown, the new coach, went through anything like this in Cleveland. Also gone is assistant coach Brian Shaw, as close as there was to a confidant for Bryant.

This already was going to be an interesting season for Bryant. At 33, he has largely tamed his reckless impulses – at least on the court. The rest his knees received in the lengthy offseason, and the stewing over last season’s early exit, were supposed to be all the invigoration Bryant would need.

Now, there is a new variable in the equation, one that will provide another subtext, and ensure that the Lakers are theater worth watching.

Tagged: Clippers, Lakers, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol

More Stories From Billy Witz


NBA Videos

NBA considering mid-season Vegas tournament? Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Adam Silver confirms the NBA has engaged in early conversations about the possib...

LeBron and Blatt 'will work together beautifully' Posted: Jul 14, 2014
Cavaliers head coach David Blatt on LeBron James' decision to return to Clevelan...

LeBron's back and so are the Cavs Posted: Jul 11, 2014
FOX Sports 1's Gary Payton weighs-in on LeBron's decision to return to Cleveland...

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    adidas Blake Griffin Los Angeles Clippers Revolution 30 Performance Jersey - Red http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Los_Angeles_Clippers/browse/featuredproduct/491845/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_491000/ff_491845_xl.jpg&w=100 59.95 adidas Blake Griffin Los Angeles Clippers Revolution 30 Performance Jersey - Red
    adidas LeBron James Miami Heat Revolution 30 Swingman Performance Jersey-Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Miami_Heat/browse/featuredproduct/498609/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_498000/ff_498609_xl.jpg&w=100 89.95 adidas LeBron James Miami Heat Revolution 30 Swingman Performance Jersey-Black
    adidas Carmelo Anthony New York Knicks Revolution 30 Swingman Performance Jersey - Royal Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_New_York_Knicks/browse/featuredproduct/620470/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_620000/ff_620470_xl.jpg&w=100 49.99 adidas Carmelo Anthony New York Knicks Revolution 30 Swingman Performance Jersey..
    Mitchell & Ness San Antonio Spurs Black Solid Script Snapback Adjustable Hat http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Antonio_Spurs/browse/featuredproduct/692239/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_692000/ff_692239_xl.jpg&w=100 25.95 Mitchell & Ness San Antonio Spurs Black Solid Script Snapback Adjustable Hat
    Majestic Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers Logo Man T-Shirt - Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Los_Angeles_Lakers/browse/featuredproduct/851828/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_851000/ff_851828_xl.jpg&w=100 23.95 Majestic Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers Logo Man T-Shirt - Black
    Majestic Kevin Durant Oklahoma City Thunder Logo Man T-Shirt - White http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Oklahoma_City_Thunder/browse/featuredproduct/851842/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_851000/ff_851842_xl.jpg&w=100 23.95 Majestic Kevin Durant Oklahoma City Thunder Logo Man T-Shirt - White
    adidas Miami Heat 2012 NBA Eastern Conference Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - White http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Miami_Heat/browse/featuredproduct/890174/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_890000/ff_890174_xl.jpg&w=100 21.95 adidas Miami Heat 2012 NBA Eastern Conference Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - Wh..
    adidas Oklahoma City Thunder 2012 NBA Western Conference Champions Locker Room Flex Hat - Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Oklahoma_City_Thunder/browse/featuredproduct/890384/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_890000/ff_890384_xl.jpg&w=100 19.99 adidas Oklahoma City Thunder 2012 NBA Western Conference Champions Locker Room F..