Kobe Bryant is one of the most competitive people alive. Whether you like him or not, there’s no debating his desire to win. Maybe the winning is an end in itself or maybe he wants to compete with Michael Jordan for the title of greatest player of all time. Either way, his competitiveness and work ethic has driven him to an elite level in the NBA and has gained him fans across the world. But what happens when that mindset meets with father time?
Once upon a time, Kobe said that he would call it quits at 35...but that seems to have been a thought that has since gone by the wayside. Now he’s clearly set on one thing: that sixth NBA championship ring. But coming off an Achilles injury and already at 35 years of age, Kobe is past his prime and his style of play is demanding on his body. As hard as he works, there is only so much that even an elite athlete like Bryant can endure. On his last leg(s?), he is poised for a not-so-graceful exit…much like Michael Jordan of the early 00s.
Two things are certain: 1) the Lakers will not compete for a championship in 2014 and 2) Kobe will try to get there anyway. As such, Kobe’s desire to win will ultimately prove to be harmful to his team.
The end result of that is painful. You can argue that the Lakers will be better or worse than last year, but in the end they will land plus or minus the eighth seed and outside of the NBA Draft lottery. As Bill Simmons wrote on how he’d fix the Lakers, LA’s best option is to tank 2013. Thankfully for the rest of the league, that won’t happen.
Kobe Bryant really puts Los Angeles in a major conundrum. Do they help their legend win a sixth ring despite the odds or should they prepare for the post-Kobe era?
Kobe playing his entire career in LA is that feel-good story that people like (and choose to conveniently forget his multiple trade requests). But the problem with Kobe Bryant is that he’s good enough to keep his team afloat but not good enough to single-handedly battle the likes of Westbrook and Durant, Duncan and Parker, or even Steph Curry and Andre Iguodala. I’ve said many times before: great teams, not great individuals, win championships—and Kobe Bryant isn’t in a situation with a team that complements him well enough. Not only that but his coach is incompetent…39 minutes per game on a 17-year veteran in a season that clearly isn’t going anywhere? D’Antoni is not far from clueless.
So instead of tanking and getting a shot at Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker, the Lakers will continue a slow, painful decline. Ironically enough, if Kobe were to acquiesce to sacrificing this year for the future, it might actually give him a better shot at tying Michael Jordan with that sixth championship in 2015 or 2016. And it would give LA somebody to build around in the post-Kobe era.
But instead Kobe will show how competitive he is and will prove how much he can accomplish individually—the very same mentality that he had when he ousted Shaq from LA back in the day. The “I can do it on my own” mentality did not work back then and it certainly won’t work a decade later.