I was watching the USA vs Tunisia basketball game, which was actually close in the first half. Of course as usual the United States pulled away and blew them out 110 – 63, but that wasn’t what caught my attention. After the game during the token let’s shake hands to show sportsmanship, an Tunisian player Mohamed Hdidane removed his shoe and asked Kobe Bryant to sign it for him. He had a marker ready for him to use as well. Kobe of course signed it for him and handed the shoe back to him, and the player didn’t ask for anyone else’s autograph. Apparently he coveted Kobe Bryant’s autograph and was determined to get it, and well his mission was a success.
Before I start on my rant let me say that I am sure this bought some sort of joy to Mr. Hdidane, and maybe he has Kobe Bryant posters in his room at home. The issue is any athlete at the same level asking for another athlete’s autograph. I know that NBA players are bigger than life to many people around the world, but when someone plays the same sport as you and theoretically on the same level you don’t ask for autographs and you definitely don’t sit in awe of your opponent. Asking for someone’s autograph puts you in a mindset that they are better than you, and almost elevates them to god like status. You have to play against this person, and if you are thinking about how you will get an autograph after the game rather than how to beat them then you have already lost.
Some sports like soccer have traditions where athletes trade jerseys with the opposing team, and that is perfectly fine. These types of rituals typically involve some sort of equivalent exchange a jersey for a jersey. But, removing your game worn shoe as you are approaching another player and pulling out a Sharpie goes against the competitive nature of the code that athlete’s follow. Let’s take Michael Phelps for example, he is a larger than life figure when the Olympics rolls around and you haven’t seen any swimmers coming up to him asking for autographs, or his goggles. Trading Olympic pins is a tradition and has become popular among athletes and fans, and that is a tradition that has grown in recent events. This incident brings back memories of when the original dream team played Angola, and the Angolan players were more interested in pictures and autographs with NBA stars than they were with winning the game.
Most sports have a large mental component to them that requires athletes to have as much physical stamina as mental fortitude to be successful, and some athletes take to viewing their opponent as an enemy for the duration of the game. Something as premeditated as having a Sharpie available to get an autograph means that mentally Kobe Bryant already had Mohamed Hdidane beat mentally. Many athletes refuse to wear jerseys of other athletes especially if it’s someone they played against, and the most elite athletes in the world aren’t asking each other for autographs, it just doesn’t happen.
You can watch the video here: