“Kobe: Doin’ Work” debuts on ESPN

Anyone catch Spike Lee’s “documentary” about Kobe Bryant last night? Why am I putting the word “documentary” in quotes? Well, this wasn’t so much a documentary as it was a carefully constructed way to paint Kobe in the best possible light.

That’s not to say that it wasn’t informative. The format is this — Spike Lee had roughly 30 cameras on Kobe during a Lakers/Spurs game last year, and even gained access to the locker room for the pregame, halftime and postgame activities. Then, after a game against the Knicks, Kobe sat down with Lee and laid down a commentary track where he described everything that was going on.

Lee utilizes a ton of camera angles — and even inserts photographs here and there — to break up the monotony of watching a year-old NBA game. The camera is almost always focused on Kobe, but occasionally there are shots of other people in his life (Pau Gasol, his daughters, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, etc.).

Kobe does a good job of describing what he’s thinking during the course of a game and explaining why he did what he did. This is all well and good, but based on how positive he was being towards his teammates, it’s clear that he filtered and censored himself for this project. In fact, I’m guessing that once his teammates heard that he’d be mic’d and filmed for the entire game, they were happy to have a night off from the real Kobe.

Do fans know exactly how Kobe deals with his teammates and the officials? No, but we can put two and two together. (Guess what, it equals four.) I know that every time I watch a Laker game, Kobe bitches out one of his teammates at least two or three times, and that’s just when the camera catches him doing it. He is constantly working the refs, and oftentimes acts like a frustrated kindergartner when he doesn’t get his way. Not once did Lee catch him waving his hand at an official in dismissal of his call and/or opinion on a play, which is something that Kobe does an average of five times a game, by my count.

Part of his good mood probably had something to do with the fact that the Lakers blew out the Spurs that night — it would have been a hell of a lot more interesting to see the Lakers lose in a tight one. Let’s see what happens when Kobe and his teammates have to deal with so much adversity that he forgets that he’s being filmed. Then we might get a glimpse into what he’s really like.

But it’s not Lee’s fault — he can’t control how the game plays out. In the end, “Kobe: Doin’ Work” is what it is. An authorized all-access pass that “reveals” the carefully constructed public persona of Kobe Bryant that we’ve been spoon fed since his debacle in Colorado several years ago. The basketball action and strategy are top notch, but even after listening to Bryant speak for an hour and a half, I didn’t feel like I knew him any better, and while it’s not all that surprising, it’s still disappointing.

ESPN is running “Kobe: Doin’ Work” again this week. Check your local listings.

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