Isolation Play

Kobe's been in the spotlight much of his life. Yet he's still a mystery -- even to himself.

Updated: October 10, 2003, 1:14 AM ET
By Tim Keown | ESPN The Magazine
Anyone with a shred of sense cringes each time Kobe Bryant shows up for another televised awards show. One week, he's designer classy at the ESPYs, another he's bling-bling street casual for the Teen Choice Awards. Now there's an event whose very name should have been enough to scare off a man accused of sexual assault against a 19-year-old. But the man on the other end of the line -- a man in the basketball business who's known Kobe and his family since the NBA star was 17 -- is laughing as he says, "He feels he's bulletproof. He throws caution to the wind because he thinks he's Superman. When you think about it, why wouldn't he? He's never had reason to believe otherwise."

The critique gets to the danger inherent in any examination of the short, suddenly strange life of the 25-year-old Laker. The danger comes in working backward, using the night of June 30 as a trampoline for revisionist leaps. Character traits that defined greatness three months ago are now seen as omens. Each one -- his intensity, his single-mindedness, his practiced detachment -- is molded to fit any number of theories and scenarios.

Tim Keown | email

ESPN Senior Writer