Kobe Bryant: I wouldn't mind being Jewish

"Not too many Jews in professional sports? That sounds kind of weird to me."

Kobe Bryant 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
Kobe Bryant 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Plenty of interesting and shocking words have been spoken in the visitors' locker room at TD Banknorth Garden in Boston during the 2005/06 NBA season, but nothing compares to Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant telling a handful of reporters, "I wouldn't mind being Jewish. I wouldn't mind. Really." Bryant, the NBA's leading scorer at 34.8 points per game, was fielding questions from a television reporter on camera about the dearth of Jewish athletes in professional sports. The basketball star, however, was skeptical. "Not too many Jews in professional sports? Hmmm," Bryant said. "That sounds kind of weird to me. Who did your research?" Reeling from Bryant's caustic tone, the TV reporter changed the topic to MVP talk. A Jewish journalist from The Boston Globe, however, wouldn't let the previous topic slide. "We are very good at squash," she insisted, under the impression that she was helping her people's cause. "There were three hockey players at my college who were Jewish," she continued. "How 'bout that? All on one team," Bryant said, excited. "The Red Sox have four Jews including [general manager] Theo Epstein," another Jewish reporter added. "What the hell? Who was doing your research," Bryant asked the TV reporter semifacetiously. "Put the camera back on, man. This guy is false man. This guy is lyin'." Dolph Schayes. Bryant smiles and adds Dolph's son Danny. Jon Scheyer, one of Duke University's top basketball recruits for next year. "You're getting shot down all over the place right now, buddy," Bryant said. "It ain't lookin' too good for you at all." Sandy Koufax. Hank Greenberg. "Oh it ain't lookin' too good for you at all," he continued. Although there are no Jews currently in the NBA, there are 24 in the National Football League, 18 in Major League Baseball and seven in the National Hockey League, according to www.jewsinsports.org. If Bryant, a Catholic, really wouldn't mind being Jewish, he would become the highest-profile athlete to convert to Judaism. Although many believe that baseball great Rod Carew converted when he married a Jewish woman, he never actually "joined the tribe." He did, however, raise his children Jewish. But Bryant dispelled the notion of replacing Schayes as the greatest Jewish basketball player of all-time. "I don't know if I'm converting, but if I do, you can definitely add another athlete to the pool," he said. And if he does, that's one tip-off Bryant won't be too excited about.