The intensity can’t be matched, in games or in his desire to remain on the court despite injuries that come & go. Kobe Bryant is the undisputed king and ruler of the Los Angeles Lakers, and until he leaves or retires, nothing can grow to its full potential next to him.
I don’t want to be the next Michael Jordan, I only want to be Kobe Bryant. What I’m doing right now, I’m chasing perfection.
You have to be selfish in a way in order to become a success in the NBA, not to mention a living legend, one of the all time greatest to play the game, who is in his mid 30’s and is still one of the top 4 scorers in the game, next to Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, although it’s usually a matter of shot-volume that keeps him with them.
Bryant isn’t going to change, and adapting is also something a lot of NBA stars need to do. LeBron James didn’t want to take the reigns but he had to, because sharing the load between him and Dwyane Wade wasn’t working. A clear hierarchy was needed. Wade has his own ego, but in order to win that second NBA title, he needed and did slide over to the side, giving James the full spectrum of the spotlight.
Bryant did enough sharing early in his career with Shaquille O’Neal. That duo destroyed and dominated the league in the early 00’s, but also self destructed two years in a row against teams that are perfect examples of team – the San Antonio Spurs in 2003 and the Detroit Pistons in 2004. Then Shaq left, and Bryant was left with a wasteland around him, even missing the playoffs in 2005 because it took the Lakers time to once again add the pieces around him.
Kobe Bryant isn’t going to change, Dwight Howard is. Or will have to. Maybe he already has. There’s no chance in being as serious and as intense as Bryant is. Maybe he and the Lakers love to exaggerate with the severity of his injuries plenty of times; I wouldn’t be surprised that Bryant loves reading about how gallant he is for playing 12 minutes just to provide inspiration to his leader-less teammates. Maybe they were just thinking: thank god the ball-hog is off the lineup for once. I guess we’ll never really know, unless someone publishes a book.
Dwight Howard won’t be a 20-15 center and go to guy when Bryant is around, because eventually, even if he has a few games of 11, 12 and 14 assists, Bryant goes back to his original form, which is being about himself, wanting to grab the spotlight just as much as he wants to win.
I’ll do whatever it takes to win the games, whether it’s sitting on a bench waving a towel, handling a cup of water to a teammate, or hitting the game winning shot.
Bryant wants to win – for himself, for equaling the sixth ring Jordan has, just so he can hear himself being brought up in the discussion of the greatest shooting guard ever, the greatest player ever and the rest. But he needs that win, eventually, to be about him. He needs teammates that understand that, or they should simply stay out of his way. The team assembled around him from 2008-2010 was the right group. Not enough ego to clash with his own, but plenty of talent to complement his own.
The depth of those years is gone. Steve Nash is better than Derek Fisher, but horrible on defense, with Steve Blake offering some console, some of the time. Dwight Howard isn’t 100%, and isn’t 100% happy or sure he wants to continue with Bryant. It doesn’t matter what he says to the media. We’ll know the real truth once free agency becomes a story, and we’ll see where his heart resides. Pau Gasol is no longer that Gasol, the one who won the fifth ring for Kobe only to see Bryant win the series MVP, he’ll never be again.
No one can reach their full individual potential next to Kobe Bryant, and in order for that relationship to work, the other player, Dwight Howard being the case, needs to understand that, and change his game and his expectations accordingly. Unless that happens, making the playoffs and getting knocked out quickly is all the Lakers can hope to achieve this season.