The coming NBA season marks the what is – in all likelihood – the final year of Kobe Bryant. It’ll cost the Los Angeles Lakers a total of $25 million for the pleasure, but indications from Kobe (via Mitch Kupchak) have been that this will be his last. Would I bet on this? Well… no (and if you’re a betting enthusiast improve your NBA odds!!). Kobe’s somewhat enigmatic with regards to announcements, and if he plays well this coming season – there could be a longer stay.
I have to admit to being completely torn on this. Whilst Kobe’s one of my all-time favourites (along with a few others – just check the website banner), there are times where he drives me batshit crazy. Prior to the last contract extension, I
unrealistically hoped he’d take a deal at a reduced rate, a la Tim Duncan and the Spurs… but to no avail. There’s a helluva lot of ego involved there, and admitting that this hurts LA now, it’s a very large part of what makes number 24 so great, and that’s lead to LA accumulating 5 titles with Kobe wearing a Lakers uniform.
Still, if Kobe decides that he is going to stay, I hope he finally does so in a way that allows the team to at least start to move on. A very large part of what has made the Spurs so relevant for so long has been the willingness by their top players to take a cut to enable the team to put elite players in there. It’s not something only they do either – Dirk Nowitzki’s done the same thing at Dallas, to try and help out there (unsuccessfully, thus far).
The reality of LA is that they’re going to have to ride out whatever comes, and move on when they can. There are some good signs – taking D’Angelo Russell at #2 (which had the added bonus of ensuring that the Lakers didn’t take on Rajon Rondo – dodged a bullet there!), Julius Randle’s return to health… but some worrying stuff too: the reluctance of marquis free agents to move to the purple ‘n gold. How much of this is the Front Office (Jim Buss isn’t exactly held in high esteem), and how much of it is personnel, and how much is on Kobe? I really don’t know: I think it’s probably a little of all of the above.
I mean… I get it, but ego’s fine in a guy that’s one of the true elite in the league (I mean… 25 million?), but in the cutthroat business of professional sports, an old dude who’s holding your franchise back due to salary/ego is somewhat frustrating.
I did say “somewhat”. Because the flipside of this is that since the turn of the new millenium, the Lakers have enjoyed a period of success that few fans get to experience in a lifetime, much less a decade and a half. For that, I’m absolutely grateful, and I can deal with seasons like the one just gone with a smile, as ultimately LA’s brought me a helluva lot of pleasure – I can deal with some pain now.