*Two days after Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Brown said Kobe Bryant was “somewhat confused about culture” and criticized his treatment of former teammate Shaquille O’Neal, Bryant is firing back.
Brown said Tuesday during an appearance on “The Arsenio Hall Show” that because Bryant’s childhood from ages 6 to 13 was spent in Italy while his father, Joe Bryant, played basketball overseas, Kobe “doesn’t quite fit what’s happening in America.”
Brown, a running back for the Cleveland Browns from 1957 to 1965, also brought up Bryant’s sometimes-icy relationship with O’Neal, saying, “He threw Shaq under the bus.” [Scroll down to watch.]
Bryant, speaking Thursday after the Los Angeles Lakers’ practice, said the comments caught him off guard.
“It surprised me in a sense that it came out of left field,” Bryant said, according to ESPN.com. “I mean, I’ve never even met him, so it came out of left field but I do think it’s a great opportunity to have these conversations, to have this discussion.
“I think no matter where you come from, whether you come from Italy, whether you come from Inglewood [Calif.], whether you come from London, it doesn’t matter. Ultimately, the conversation is that it doesn’t matter what color skin you are to begin with. But, I think it’s a good place to start to have a good conversation and try to educate one another and try to improve as a society from it.”
Bryant first took to Twitter on Thursday morning with his reaction, writing:
“If it’s a major issue that involves a quality or a perception of racial quality, I feel like that’s something that’s a big enough message that needs to be addressed,” Bryant said when asked about the tweet. “Obviously it’s a sensitive topic for everybody, but I think the best thing to do is not dance around it but to go at it with a full head of steam and generate conversation about it. So, that’s how I try to measure it.”
Brown, who founded the Black Economic Union with the purpose of bolstering prosperity in the black community, also said that if he were to put together a summit, like the one he organized in 1967 with players such as Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in attendance to support Muhammad Ali’s stance against the war, Bryant would not be one of the athletes to receive an invitation.
“In the days when we had a summit and called the top black athletes together to talk to Muhammad Ali about his status with the armed forces, there were some athletes we didn’t call,” Brown said. “If I had to call that summit all over, there’d be some athletes I wouldn’t call. Kobe would be one of them.”
Bryant, 35, said he has no interest in hashing out the 77-year-old Brown’s issues with him personally.
“No,” Bryant said. “There’s nothing to talk about. We have different perceptions and different views on it, clearly. So, the thing that I’m trying to do always, what I’ve been trying to do, is try to educate our youth going forward, no matter what color skin you are — be it African-American or white or whatever the case may be — just try to talk about having a bright future and how to help kids going forward and progress as a society as a whole.
“But he and I, there’s no reason for us to have a conversation. We’re completely on opposite sides of the spectrum. I’m an old dog, but he’s a much older dog so he’s probably a lot more set in his ways than I am.”