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Rant, Rave

PETE YOUNG
Published November 16, 2003

Guilty or not, Bryant has shown his selfish nature

Kobe Bryant's trial has put a spotlight on every nook and cranny of his life. The scrutiny has cut through his carefully cultivated image and revealed an increasingly dislikable person.

Bryant's aloof personality wasn't much of an issue when he was a smugly smiling co-superstar to Shaquille O'Neal on the Lakers dynasty train. Not anymore. The close-up look at Bryant has shown an almost supernaturally self-absorbed person who is estranged from his family (again, at a time when he needs support) and also is astonishingly indifferent to his team and teammates.

This isn't about defending O'Neal. The Daddy also came off as petty, jealous and self-centered in his through-the-media argument with Bryant. But Bryant has been exposed as worse.

In Bryant's world - it is "Bryant's World" - it all revolves around Kobe. He recently said he didn't see how his trial had an effect on the Lakers or their players, except for him. If he believes that, he is either blind or stunningly ignorant. He has no trouble finding the basket, so his eyesight is verified.

On the court Bryant has played selfishly, despite offseason knee surgery, the addition of two Hall of Famers and an admitted lack of fitness.

Bryant clearly wants out of L.A. after this season. The questions are, what team will want him and who would want to be his teammate?

Leak has done the impossible for the Gators

Florida was 2-2 and coming off a home loss to Tennessee when it named Chris Leak the starting quarterback and anointed him The Man, halting the rotating system with Ingle Martin.

It was a mistake to suddenly thrust a true freshman into such a position, essentially saying, "Save us," and what happened next was predictable: Leak's play fluctuated as the Gators eked out a win at Kentucky and suffered a dubious home loss to Mississippi. Florida was 3-3 and staring at consecutive road games at highly ranked opponents (LSU and Arkansas) followed by the rivalry game against Georgia.

The Gators were headed toward the gutter. Then Leak saved them.

True freshmen quarterbacks just don't rescue major-college football powerhouses.

But Leak has done it.

Florida won its next five games.

He has progressed extraordinarily quickly. His natural passing skills have been part of it, but more so it has been his grasp of the offense, his ability to translate it onto the field and his poise under pressure. These are the most important quarterback attributes, and usually they take a couple of years to develop, if ever.

For Leak it took a few weeks. As a result, a season destined for disappointment at the end of September instead augurs a bright future for the Gators - as long as Leak is at the helm.

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