The start of the NBA season can be gauged on how magazines try to use Kobe Bryant to sell their wares.
(Or, even teammed up with A-Rod, Michael Phelps and Tony Hawk to sell a video guitar game that makes everyone an instant hero).
We found easily three top publications — regular ones, not special NBA preview guides — that have Kobe in a different light heading into tonight’s TNT coverage (exclusive) of the Lakers’ home opener against Portland (7:30 p.m., unless the Celtics’ game ahead of it runs long).
1. Slam: Kobe As Political Pop Art
This dynamic, bold cover easily catches the eye with the artwork of Stephen Goggi — not just of Kobe, but also of Greg Oden, LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Kevin Garnett (all linked here).
According to the note in the December, 2008 issue (yes, it’s only October when it came out), executive editor Lang Whitaker wanted a spin off from the Barack Obama campaign poster “as our inspiration” for a cover. Those “Hope” ads that are posted guerilla style all over the place are very inspiring — and extremely hard to find as well. Art director Goggi created the five as collectable covers, with the help of creative director Melissa Brennan. Whitaker notes that Slam subscribers have been mailed the Kobe cover, while newsstands across the country have the other of regional interest. Those interested in getting all five can find information on the magazine website (linked here).
But let’s give credit where it’s due.
Los Angeles street artist Shepard Fairey created the “Hope” Obama poster, and then was commissioned by Upper Deck to do a Kobe version (which we blogged about back in July, linked here).
2. Sporting News: Kobe As Old
That doesn’t look like 30 candles on a birthday cake, but
The Sporting News SportingNews magazine (linked here) gets its sales pitch across: He’s not a kid any more and “he’s done it all — that’s why he’s the best.” Even though they predict a repeat of Boston over the Lakers. Kobe is No. 1 in the magazine’s list of the top 50 players in the game today — actually, it’s a list compiled by Rick Barry, who probably thinks he still belongs on this collection of players’ ranking. There is no other Laker or Clipper on said list, other than Kobe .. oh, wait, there’s Baron Davis at No. 18, who really hasn’t played yet in a regular-season game for Los Angeles, so we’ll put that aside for now. And former Clipper Elton Brand is No. 31. Oh, wait, just saw Pau Gasol right above him at No. 30. But that’s it. We think.
Actually, if you’re a Kobe collector, the best picture of him from this Oct. 27 edition (aside from the Bob Leverone photo on the front) is spread over pages 20 and 21, in a pensive kneel holding a ball with an icy stare, and his right foot proped on a pedistal.
3. Sports Illustrated: Old, Regular Kobe
Nothing exceptional here in the shot by Robert Beck, except that in true SI tradition, it is a regional cover as well (as we noted at this link when it came out last week) mixed in with a front page of Garnett, James, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard and Elton Brand.
The Lakers’ writeup (linked here) by Marty Burns, a “rival scout” is quoted as saying: “I still question whether Kobe Bryant has enough support to win it all this year. The Lakers are still young, and their style is more finesse than physical; just look at Kobe’s top teammates: Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol. I don’t see anyone else who has the tough, buck-stops-with-me demeanor that Kobe has…. Odom totally disappeared in the Finals. He’s extremely good in games that don’t matter much, but when it’s crunch time, he doesn’t know how to raise his game…. Last year Sasha Vujacic was a deadeye catch-and-shoot guy who showed teams he needs to be guarded. Now, when defenders rush out at him, he has to prove he can take one or two dribbles, then knock down the shot…. L.A. would be best served by starting Trevor Ariza at small forward because he doesn’t need the ball. Otherwise, there aren’t enough shots to go around. When defenses sag on Gasol or Andrew Bynum in the post, the best response would be to have a good cutter like Ariza going backdoor for layups.”
We’ll see, starting tonight.
Have you spotted Kobe on any other magazine covers? Let us know.