This week, there was a focus on Machiavelli’s The Prince. This reading demonstrated several beliefs for what would make a good prince and what a prince should do while in power. There are certain principles I found very interesting and noteworthy. For example, a prince should have a “counsel” that becomes his only flatterers to give a listening ear to, even though he should still do what he wants in the end. Secondly, he is to abuse his power, also known as his fortune, because if he is complacent it can be taken away. Lastly, he is better off being feared, than loved, simply because it means he gives his people security while securing their respect.
Machiavelli’s The Prince has principles within the reading that I note in the sports world. More specifically, principles that I see reflected in Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers. I am Kobe’s biggest supporter, almost to a fault. I saw him go up against my Detroit Pistons and lose in the finals of 2004, struggle thereafter until the arrival of Pau Gasol in 2008, win his 4th and 5th rings in 2009 & 2010, and then run into some bad luck, health wise (okay, it’s probably from his old age) with an achilles tear and a broken bone in his knee. He is a highly decorated athlete that secured a spot in the Hall of Fame years ago, with career averages of 25 points per game, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists per game, 5 championship rings, and ranking 4th on the all-time scoring list.
Nevertheless, I believe “The Black Mamba” shares some traits Machiavelli stated would make a good prince. On any NBA team, there are veterans that act as a counsel of sorts to the younger players. They advise them on and off the court, and I’m sure Kobe received this from several teammates and a highly respected coach in Phil Jackson early in his career. Kobe would still do what he wanted in the end, often taking the buzzer beating shots over Shaquille O’Neal (A future Hall of Fame Center). A friction between O’Neal and Bryant had been brewing for years ,since 1998, to be exact. Quickly, the Lakers became Kobe’s team.
After that 2004 NBA finals loss to the Detroit Pistons, Shaq was allowed to leave instead of getting rid of Kobe. That was his first true award of his fortune and he then abused it from then on. He often would go public voicing his need to be involved in front office decisions and roster moves. Once, he even requested a trade during the 2007 season, attempting to force management’s hand. As recently as this past season, he signed an extension to give him around $23.5 million a year when he could have taken a cut for his team to get better quality players. If these aren’t clear abuses of power, I don’t know what is.
Furthermore, throughout his career, he has always had a reputation of rubbing teammates the wrong way. From the Shaq debacle, to Smush Parker calling him out for being a bad teammate, to Dwight Howard reportedly leaving because of bad chemistry between him and Bryant. Even this offseason, there were numerous rumors that free agents wouldn’t sign with the Lakers because of Kobe. This isn’t a 1 to 1 comparison but the negative feeling of being feared, as a teammate, is similar to the fear a prince is supposed to put in his citizens, according to Machiavelli. At the same time, there are current and past teammates that have praised him for his work ethic and he has garnered their respect, just as a Machiavellian prince should.
To conclude, as I previously stated, I love Kobe Bryant. He is my favorite player in the National Basketball Association, and a former MVP award winner. With all that considered, he has certain qualities Machiavelli points to for a good prince, many of which I am not sold on actually making a good prince.