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National Columnist

Kobe's ankle will heal, but damage to Jones' rep can't be undone

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That deal with Kobe Bryant and Dahntay Jones was nasty. One player was vulnerable and the other waded in, reckless and cruel, and the result is a wound that won't heal. Not completely. Not ever.

Dirty play, Kobe Bryant.

You read that right. Kobe Bryant hit Dahntay Jones with a low blow Wednesday night when he called Jones a "dirty" player and bemoaned having to wait a year "to get revenge." Bryant told the media those things shortly after being injured on a play that looked to me -- and to lots of people like me, people who don't have a dog in the hunt -- like an accident. It didn't look intentional. Didn't look dirty. Didn't even look all that unusual.

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But Kobe said what he said, and Lakers fans heard the call to action and attacked Jones on Twitter. Probably still are, though all I saw -- all I could stomach -- was a 15-minute period Thursday when these were some of the tweets sent to Jones by people identifying themselves as Lakers fans.

"F--K YOU DIE SLOW."

"OMG Kobe's gonna rape you."

"Yo, I'm putting a $5 Million price tag on this n-gga Dahntay Jones head.."

"I'm going to rape dahntay jones' wife."

"Me and my n-ggas boutta clique up and do a drive-by on that n-gga dahntay jones house for injuring my n-gga Kobe man."

"Your a bad person and god will punish you"

"Takin a trip to ATL to whoop the skin off Dahntay Jones. Who's down?"

People can be stupid, dangerous animals, but that's not news. Michael Vick's three-city book tour was canceled this week because of violent threats against him, his family, the bookstores and even store employees. In large groups people are flammable, a pile of gasoline-soaked rags waiting for a spark.

Kobe tossed a lit match.

This is a smart man, Kobe Bryant. He knew what he was doing. He joined Twitter recently to get his message across and to rouse the masses -- he has more than 1.6 million followers, many mindlessly retweeting even his most inane posts -- and he went to Twitter after the game Wednesday to say Jones had perpetrated a "dangerous play." He also told reporters that garbage about getting "revenge" and then emailed another reporter to call Jones' play "dirty and dangerous."

The play was dangerous (obviously), but so are scores of jump shots taken every night, in every game, around the NBA as well as college and high school basketball. It's a wonder that what happened to Kobe on Wednesday doesn't happen more often. Know how much pickup basketball I've played in my life? Some. A decent amount. But not every week, nothing like that. And yet twice I've been involved in the same sort of play that injured Kobe. A sports writer for the Gainesville Sun -- Pat Dooley -- landed on my foot and blew out his knee. A few years later I landed on someone's foot and blew out my ankle. It happens.

It happened to Kobe. And what he said about it led to death threats, rape threats and a reputation that will follow Jones forever.

That's what Kobe did to him.

What did Dahntay Jones do to Kobe? He played defense. That's what he did. Kobe dribbled to the baseline and Jones, smart defender that he is, knew exactly where Kobe was going and what he would do once he got there. When Kobe went up for the fadeaway, Jones went with him -- jumping toward him, following his fade, contesting the shot.

Kobe landed on Jones' foot and rolled his ankle. It happens.

Kobe compared it to the Jalen Rose incident during the 2000 NBA Finals, when Kobe landed on Rose's foot, rolling an ankle so severely that he missed the next game. Years later Rose suggested that it was intentional -- "I think I did it on purpose," Rose told a radio host -- but I'm calling him a liar.

He "thinks" he did it on purpose? I don't think so. I think that, over the years, so many people told him he must have done it on purpose that he decided to take credit for it. Why? Because it made the story -- the time he injured Kobe Bryant -- better.

Sort of like the way ex-Detroit Lions lineman Lomas Brown took credit a few months ago for getting his infuriating quarterback, Scott Mitchell, injured against the Packers in 1994. Brown's employers at ESPN studied the play that ended Mitchell's season and saw Brown had done nothing wrong; he had picked up a blitzing linebacker on the play. Over the years, though, human nature worked on Brown and he confused fantasy with reality.

That's what I think happened with Rose, whose "admission" hurts Dahntay Jones because it spreads the lie that NBA players actually do this stuff on purpose -- and that they do it to Kobe Bryant, for some reason.

Even so, it really doesn't matter what happened between Jalen Rose and Kobe Bryant in 2000. Nor does it matter what happened between Kobe Bryant and Dahntay Jones in 2009, when Jones intentionally tripped Bryant during a playoff game.

That happened, and it doesn't speak highly of Jones that he would do such a thing. But it doesn't speak highly of Kobe that he would use that 2009 play by Jones to lead the lemmings exactly where they wanted to go. On Thursday a Twitter account that calls itself Lakers Nation asked its more than 160,000 followers: "Was Dahntay Jones' play on Kobe last night in Atlanta dirty?"

As of late Thursday afternoon more than 93 percent had voted yes, it was dirty. But that's what fans do and it's how fans think, especially when they've been told what to think by their idol.

They see a dirty play because that's what Kobe told them to see.

I see a low blow, too. It was committed after the game by the guy with the sprained ankle.


Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.
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