He's a 12-time all-star in the National Basketball Association. The number of times he's been a first-team, all-defensive player is eight - and counting. He won't be 32 until August. By that time, he just might have as many championship rings as Magic Johnson. And oh, by the way, he was born right here in Philadelphia.

You would think with such lofty credentials there would be a statue standing somewhere, on some street corner, perhaps near City Hall, paying homage to Kobe Bryant - the greatest champion to ever come out of a place known for its associations with anything but. Except that's never been the case with Bryant, who struggles to get a decent "hello" around these parts.


"I don't know," Bryant has told me on several occasions. "I really have no idea."

Bryant forgot to say it's officially Philadelphia's problem. So it's time for others to say it for him.

Any volunteers?

As the former league MVP gets set to appear in his seventh NBA Finals - six more than the 76ers have participated in over the last 27 years, by the way - and avenge a 131-92 drubbing by the rival Boston Celtics in the title-clinching Game 6 victory in 2008, it would make sense for Philadelphians to stand up, applaud excellence, and bury whatever proverbial hatchet they have concerning the Lakers star. Particularly since no one knows what ax it has to grind.

It should be easy to move past these things, of course. To just sit around and resign oneself to the fact that every city and every fan in it has a right to feel whatever way they want about whomever they please. But there should be one obligation attached to such hostility: making sense.

News flash, Philadelphia: You're falling short in this department.

Former 76ers coach Larry Brown never understood the disdain for Bryant. The late John Hardnett, a local community coaching legend, never understood it, either. Neither did St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli, when I asked him years ago. Ditto former Temple coach John Chaney, or Drexel's coach, Bruiser Flint.

Basketball lovers love basketball players.

Perhaps the time has come for a city to explain itself.

"I've been around the game for quite a long time," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak told me yesterday. "There are very, very few individuals I know of in this game who've ever been as focused as Kobe Bryant.

"All he cares about is winning, is being the best he can be while winning championships. He's that committed. He's that determined. He's that focused, and he's been this way since I've known him. This organization has always known how lucky we are to have him."

Maybe that's what it is.

Maybe in spite of all the great years that Allen Iverson gave this city, how he was the obvious top overall pick for former Sixers GM Brad Greenberg back in 1996, too many in this city are too busy lamenting the fact that they haven't had the greatest two-guard outside Michael Jordan or Oscar Robertson to embrace Bryant (the No. 13 overall pick in 1996) as one of their own.

Those same folks would rather point to the fact that Bryant was raised in Italy during his formative years instead of recalling that he was born in Philadelphia. They'd rather question his street credibility because he starred in the suburbs of Lower Merion than appreciate how his game transcended the streets.

Show me any star as accomplished as Bryant who was booed in his hometown as an all-star MVP. Show me the frowning faces, usually reserved for those who fall short continuously.

What's the problem? Is it that Bryant beat the Sixers in 2001, ending their surreal run to the Finals while sullying the luster of Iverson's league-MVP trophy at the time?

"I don't know, man," Bryant has repeated over the years when asked this question before admitting once: "It hurts, though. I can't lie about that. I never got it. Never will."

At the moment, Philadelphia doesn't matter. Basketball is irrelevant in this town. The Finals are taking place. The Sixers are not playing in them, as usual. And despite their claim to the No. 2 overall pick in this month's NBA draft and a new coach in Doug Collins, they are not about to compete for a title anytime soon.

It's Bryant's time, because it's the Finals. The Lakers' third consecutive trip to the final round, and a chance for the future Hall of Famer to stretch his legacy toward the Mount Rushmore of basketball icons. Yet win, lose, or draw, it doesn't change what Bryant has accomplished, nor what he should already mean to this city.

Everyone knows this. Except the city harboring the Big Five.

Some things require an explanation.