Busting Brackets

Wisconsin Basketball: Nobody in the wrong following Kobe King’s transfer decision

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 26: Kobe King #23 of the Wisconsin Badgers drives past Makuach Maluach #10 of the New Mexico Lobos during the second half of their game at Barclays Center on November 26, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 26: Kobe King #23 of the Wisconsin Badgers drives past Makuach Maluach #10 of the New Mexico Lobos during the second half of their game at Barclays Center on November 26, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images) /

Wisconsin Basketball has seemingly been in shambles, for the moment, given Kobe King’s exit from the program. Here’s a look at why that’s unnecessary.

Back in 2017, when Kobe King headed off to represent Wisconsin Basketball, it made all the sense in the world. He checked every box: Wisconsin state title winner, Wisconsin Mr. Basketball winner, a desire to be ”the hometown kid.” He practically had ”Wisconsin Badgers” written across his forehead as a high schooler.

To make matters even better, the last highly touted Badger to come from his hometown of La Crosse, Wisconsin? None other than the beloved Bronson Koenig.

But not everything works out in the end, even if it seems perfect on the surface. That became clear this past Wednesday when King announced that he would be transferring from Wisconsin.

He has since been met with quite the astounding amount of controversy in the media and online. Mentions of the rather bad timing (it being midseason) have come up; judgments of his character, selfishness, and toughness have also become talking points.


In a state that has an athlete being dubbed “the new Grayson Allen,” Kobe has been the topic of concern and negativity amongst fans, ironically.

To me, that negativity is unfair. Now it is worth noting, I’m a native of the La Crosse area, so a Kobe-based bias may present. I’m willing to ignore that to the best of my ability.

Kobe King is not the bad guy here. Wisconsin Basketball is not either. I do understand the feeling of disappointment some feel, but I do not agree with the anger some others feel. For whatever my opinion is worth, here is why.

A lot of the fogginess around King’s transfer was slightly brushed away when he ran an interview with Wisconsin State Journal reporter, Jim Polzin, on Friday.

His fit within the program did not come first. More so, it felt like his fit with coach Greg Gard was the main culprit to his unfortunate and sudden exit.

When Polzin asked him if his potentially odd fit within the system had anything to do with his exit, King said: “to some degree, but that’s not something that would push me over the edge, that would never be a thing that would make me leave during the season.”

Rather, it seems as if he took issue with Gard’s coaching style — more specifically, “the way we were talked to as a team,” Kobe said in his interview (regarding the topic of a meeting he had with Gard). He’s also on the record of saying he felt like Gard’s “servant” on the hardwood.

I’m in no position – a matter of fact, I think no one is – to assume what Kobe may be referencing in saying those things. I’m not here to make a judgment on Gard’s character like many have done to Kobe. Instead, I’ve come to this takeaway:

A coach/player relationship is a very important thing, especially at the college level. Sometimes, the chemistry is just simply not there. A long-tenured coach will head hundreds and hundreds of players over their career, it’s unfair to expect every relationship to work out.

The fact that Polzin reported Kobe had been considering a transfer essentially from the beginning of his career (he told Polzin that transferring was an option during both his freshman and redshirt years) really only confirms this sentiment.

Yes, Kobe made the commitment to Wisconsin, but he had no real feel of how Gard’s coaching style – when in the trenches – would feel. Even though he felt that friction early on, he toughed it out for three years. He also had several meetings with Gard regarding their issues, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out.

And no one’s in the wrong – not even Gard and Kobe – for this not working out. I’ve had coaches in my career that I got along with greatly while my teammates thought otherwise; and vise-versa. Everyone just isn’t meant for everyone, that statement accelerates when talking about the connection between coaches and players.

For some that connection means more than it does to others, and sometimes it can reach a breaking point. That’s what Kobe reached Wednesday: his breaking point, and nobody has the right to judge him for that. It’s his life, his career, his love for the game of basketball; and with those he can do whatever he pleases.

People can reference his B1G conference play team-leading 12.6 points per game, but basketball is more than shot attempts and points. It’s a chemistry game; it’s a mental game, and sometimes when your mind is out of it, it’s best for everyone involved to step away from the program.

“If I go out there and I don’t want to play, is that really going to do anything for them?” Kobe said to Polzin, hitting the nail on the head. Giving Kobe’s situation and mindset at the time, it’s best for Wisconsin Basketball to not have that kind of energy in the locker room (especially considering their current aspirations in the Big Ten).

It seems as if fans are referencing the timing of this situation as their biggest problem with it all, but really that’s a cornerstone of why it all makes sense.

Kobe King is not a quitter, he’s making a personal decision that betters himself and – in some ways – Wisconsin Basketball for the time being. He made his feelings clear with his teammates before going through with them, saying to Polzin, “if one of them would have told me it felt like I was quitting (on them) by doing it right now, I never would have said anything.”

Teammates like D’Mitrik Trice, Trevor Anderson, and Nathan Reuvers took to Kobe’s side on social media these past few days; showing their support. This decision is one that is at least mutually respected from both sides. Kobe’s teammates understand that’s what I’m taking away from their support. The least fans can do is try to do the same.

But to those who stand bolted into their opinion on Kobe’s decision, all I can say is this: please don’t let this be a judge on his character. He is anything but a bad guy. Talk to any of his teammates and I’m sure they’ll rave about his joyous love for basketball and those around him.

I’ve talked to numerous past teammates and opponents of Kobe in the past, and they’ve only said the same. They preached about his humbleness and his dedication to his craft, and just the good vibes he brings as a player.

Those who are judging him, right now, seem to only be doing so through the TV screen, and that’s unfortunate. The same can be said about Greg Gard. He and Kobe didn’t work as a team, evidently. But that doesn’t need to speak to his ability to coach a team as a whole.

He’s got a 93-56 record on his career, along with a 2015-16 season Big Ten Coach of the Year award to his resume. He’s got a solid recruiting class coming in for the next two years including Kobe’s two former teammates, Johnny Davis and his twin brother Jordan Davis.

Perhaps those two can rekindle the “La Crosse-born” magic Koenig created and Kobe was thought to continue (their father has already commented on both players’ steady dedication to Wisconsin Basketball despite Kobe‘s transfer announcement).

As for Kobe, he should expect to be an avid target in the transfer portal for many teams. Here’s to hoping he finds a coach who he gels much better with.

Personally, for whatever my opinion is worth, I think his fit at Iowa State next to coach Steve Prohm is worth toying with. Tyrese Haliburton, another athletic guard out of Wisconsin, is expected to leave for the NBA draft after this year; Kobe could be the one to fill in his shoes.

And Despite Kobe saying his fit in Wisconsin’s scheme didn’t have much to do with his transfer, that doesn’t mean it was perfect. Kobe’s game could be opened up more outside of Wisconsin’s “swing” style. His being placed in an offense that is based more on transition, pick-n-rolls, and freelance sets make much more schematic sense.

The point is that both sides will make it out of this situation fine. Matter of fact it might be for the best that this situation has happened, again for both sides. Given all that we have learned in the past few days, it’s fair to say Kobe made the right decision, not only for himself but for Wisconsin.

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Kobe will be fine. Gard will be fine. The Badgers will be fine. We as fans should feel the same way. There’s no need to bring toxicity into the program right now, and there’s no need to slam Kobe over a decision he was in the right to do. As both sides go their separate ways, as fans, let’s try and do our best to remember that.