One night after a game of the NBA 2005-6 season, in the visitors’ locker room at TD Banknorth Garden in Boston, Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant was musing strangely, according to Jerusalem Post reporter Aaron Kaplowitz (Kobe Bryant: I wouldn’t mind being Jewish).
Kaplowitz, who has since written for The New York Times, Boston.com, Crain’s New York, and Tablet Magazine, reported that night that Bryant sounded “interesting and shocking” when he told a smattering of reporters: “I wouldn’t mind being Jewish. I wouldn’t mind. Really.”
It was during an exchange with the same press folks about the fact that there have been so few Jews in sports, professional sports, that is. Speaking in a “caustic tone,” the superstar said: “Not too many Jews in professional sports? Hmmm. That sounds kind of weird to me. Who did your research?”
I must take a short wounded-pride break here to share with the reader that my own favorite team, Maccabi Tel Aviv BC, has won the FIBA Intercontinental Cup in 1980 and placed second in 2014; they also won the Euroleague six times; and on October 16, 1990, they defeated the LA Lakers 129–106 in a pre-season match – and they come from the biggest Jewish city in the world. End of digression.
Kaplowitz reported that a couple of local Jewish sportswriters argued that there are Jews in squash (they fill up the stadiums, apparently), and that there used to be really big Jewish baseball stars – Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg came to mind, and And Moe Berg, who mixed playing baseball with spying on Japan (thank you, Alan Fintz, for the correction).
“What the hell? Who was doing your research? Put the camera back on, man. This guy is false, man. This guy is lyin’.” Bryant reacted in a tone that Kaplowitz described as “semifacetious.”
“You’re getting shot down all over the place right now, buddy,” Bryant told the really hardworking press, as they were throwing more names of past and present Jewish athletes at him. “It ain’t lookin’ too good for you at all… Oh it ain’t lookin’ too good for you at all.”
“I don’t know if I’m converting, but if I do, you can definitely add another athlete to the pool,” Bryant concluded.
It boggles the mind that Maccabi Tel Aviv had a chance to count the amazing Kobe Bryant in its ranks – and he already looked fantastic in yellow…