Uniformly accepted around the NBA is the idea that Kobe Bryant is a ‘killer’, but what type of killer is he?
During the climax of All Star Weekend, a competitive and highlight stuffed All Star Game, Kobe Bryant had a clear path under the basket, but Dwyane Wade employed an unprecedented (for an All Star Game) “Jordan Rules’” type foul which resulted in light concussion along with a nasal fracture for the fourteen-time All Star. When news hit the internet that Bryant had a broken nose, Twitter was abuzz with Rip Hamilton-esque mask suggestions. One thread beckoned Kobe to sport a Black Mamba inspired mask which, tying in with the snake theme, led to campaigning for a Cobra Commander mask.
Suggestions continued until they reached ‘Kobe should wear a Hannibal Lectar mask’ because as we all know Black Mamba is a killer, and what greater homage to being a killer than to one of cinema’s most famous. At this point I had to chime in that if Kobe’s going to be labeled a killer from Silence of the Lambs then he’s more fit to be Buffalo Bill than the fearsome Dr. Lectar.
If we’re playing the ‘NBA player / fictional serial killer’ association game then Michael Jordan is Hannibal Lectar and Kobe is akin to Jame ‘Buffalo Bill’ Gumb – a man who has become a killer to compensate for his social awkwardness.
In Silence of the Lambs Dr. Hannibal Lectar’s brilliance borders on savant, as does his madness, which is so chilling because of the cold and calculated way he kills and literally consumes a victim. You get the sense that Lectar was spawn straight from the pits of hell as some sort of unstoppable killing machine seemingly ‘programmed’ from birth to mercilessly slaughter whomever he sees fit. Whatever is the driving force behind his actions is inherit.
Buffalo Bill, on the other hand, was not born but became a murderer over time. The killing is a result of his upbringing, and mental torment. Lectar describes him as: “Billy was not born a criminal but made one by years of systematic abuse.” Jame Gumb was not born as Buffalo Bill (the name given to him by the media) but he created the personae to try to distance his psyche from himself. Director Jonathon Demme describes the character as “a person who hated himself so much that he just wanted to make himself as far away from what he was, as he possibly could.”
When Gumb truly snapped he began murdering women, but that was not his end goal. For Buffalo Bill his victims became trophies, murdering these women to cultivate a deranged ‘woman suit’ from pieces of each victim’s skin. With each partition of skin garnered he felt he was moving further away from himself. This is where the comparison to Kobe is made: the need to amass trophies, or in Kobe’s case, scoring records, as if once owning them all he can finally be satisfied with who he is.
Now, I’m not insinuating that Kobe is a lunatic who stares into the mirror with smeared makeup on his face while performing a ‘tuck back’. But if we are going to compare killers in Silence of the Lambs to NBA players then Michael Jordan is Dr. Hannibal Lectar; a truly unstoppable force who was compelled to destroy others; and Kobe Bryant is a dangerous killer, but one not driven by the sheer act rather the achievement of accumulation. Bryant, it seems, has foregone team chemistry this year with an eye solely on collecting personal records, as if only once he’s amassed enough can he like what he sees in the mirror.
Similar to Gumb, Kobe is creating a ‘piece of work’ and will not stop until its completion. Becoming the Lakers’ all-time scoring leader felt good, but was not enough. Passing Jordan on the all-time All Star Game gave him little pleasure but was a fine addition to his work. Look at Kobe this past Sunday, this was not an exhibition game for him.
Long gone is the jubilant Kobe Bryant who awed NBA fans in his first All Star appearance back in 1998. We are left with a man more obsessed with getting the scoring record, by any mundane way necessary, than with entertaining us. All of these records are only pieces to his suit which can only reach completion once he passes Kareem on the all time scoring list.
Just as Jame Gumb gave way to Buffalo Bill, Kobe Bryant has become The Black Mamba – a killer consumed with owning records so he can be viewed as someone else.
Brandon Bombay – @brandonbombay