- The Washington Times - Friday, July 11, 2003

Kobe Bryant possibly has added a trace of “street cred” to his image after hanging out on the mean streets around the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera in Edwards, Colo., last week.

Bryant has been accused of sexual assault by a 19-year-old woman and of being too polished by devotees of the edgy-driven marketplace.

Bryant used to have no “street cred,” according to the predominantly milquetoast “street credologists” who leave no dark alley unexplored in their quest to uncover the pulse of America’s shoe buyers.

As one of the best-known shoe peddlers in America, Bryant is said to lack the hard-edged appeal of an Allen Iverson or a Latrell Sprewell because of his fluency in 16 or 17 different languages, or whatever the number is.

Bryant basically was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, was encouraged by his parents to exercise his mind as well as his body and won three NBA championships before his 24th birthday.

You can see the problem. He was not real enough.

There were no naked women in his background. There were no gun charges. There were no bales of medicinal marijuana on his premises.

You are obligated to have some of this stuff in your biography if you want to have “street cred” with a cross section of potential shoe customers.

But who knows? All this is new to me.

Sad to admit, I missed the memo on “street cred.”

The same disconnect occurred after the Random House Webster’s College Dictionary decided to change the spelling of boys to boyz. It must have been a couple of years before this significant development reached my desk.

Anyway, the value of a naked woman cannot be understated in the marketing process.

America desperately loves naked women, especially if they have been dispatched to the streets following a communication impasse with a gun-toting husband.

America sees a naked woman on the streets, preferably one who is sprinting, and immediately descends on the nearest shopping mall to purchase the shoe endorsed by the player.

This seems to be how the “street-cred” dynamic works: one keep-it-real basketball player plus one naked woman equals one massive rush on shoes.

The shoe companies, given their competitiveness, undoubtedly would employ naked women at their centers of commerce and offer free lap dances to boost sales if such activities were permitted. Instead, they have to depend on the word-of-mouth hype of a naked woman.

Thankfully, not all companies covet the XXX-rated enticement.

Bryant has an endorsement deal with McDonald’s, which likes to think of itself as a wholesome source of cholesterol, a contradiction that has come to the attention of certain humanistic trial lawyers.

These noble souls have taken up the cause of those 350-pound teens who mainline the artery-clogging products of McDonald’s on Bryant’s say-so.

These teens did not know that they could have a health issue if they consumed 10 to 15 Big Macs a day. But now they do know, no thanks to Bryant, who, with the help of McDonald’s super-size fries, is physically fit and attractive.

To be honest, all of it is apt to confuse, not unlike the fallout that is enveloping Randall Simon after his baseball bat undermined the quality of life of a swift-moving Italian sausage in Milwaukee.

Simon is obviously one of those hitters who swings at anything: pitches in the dirt, pitches up around his eyes and an Italian sausage that is running by the visitors’ dugout.

The Italian sausage earned a scrape or two, and Simon a trip to the county jail in handcuffs, which beats the prognosis before Rick Schlessinger, the executive vice president of the Brewers who appears to have been traumatized by the incident, judging by his comments to the news media.

You might wonder: What does this do for Simon’s “meat cred,” if anything?

One other thing: Was his bat corked?

It is hard to swallow, much less digest.

You have this sordid business involving Bryant on the graffiti-marred, bottle-strewn, bullet-riddled streets of Edwards, Colo., and you have this Italian sausage in Milwaukee accidentally running into the path of a bat held by Simon.

Meanwhile, no one is really discussing the ever-increasing “street cred” of Damon Stoudamire, although the point guard has developed an impressive habit of bumping into marijuana-sniffing law-enforcement officials. What a lot of people don’t realize is that smoking large quantities of marijuana aids in the recovery of ankle sprains, pulled hamstrings and another disappointing season with the Trail Blazers.

Stoudamire is reeking of “street cred,” and that is good.

Good is bad, bad is good, and Bryant is who-knows-where in this upside-down universe.

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