Kobe Bryant Needs to Take a Step Back Before Lakers Can Take a Step Forward

Kobe Bryant has played in a total of 1381 basketball games (regular season and postseason). That is equal to almost 17 full seasons in the NBA.

Go back through the history of the NBA and find a player with 17 years of mileage on their body would could drop 42 points on the road in an elimination game.

You won’t find any.

Kobe Bryant’s brilliance won’t be fully appreciated until he has been out of the NBA for many years, the things he did on the basketball court this year (officially his 16th in league) are unheard of. You aren’t suppose to play at that high of a level when you have been in the league for that long.

You see players like Tim Duncan, Ray Allen, KG, Vince Carter and etc have flashes of greatness throughout a season, but Kobe had a sustained level of excellence that defies everything logical that we know about sports.

He isn’t Prime Kobe, but all that work in the gym sans Vanessa has paid off. Kobe is like Rocky and his body is Drago, you know who should win, but Kobe isn’t allowing it.

My first real basketball memory of Bryant was him airballing two three pointers with the game on the line against Utah during his rookie season.

I remember saying to myself at the time..

“This is either going to ruin him or making him better.”

What we learned about Kobe at an early age was that failure wasn’t going to stop him from shooting and it was going to motivate him to work harder.

Since those air balls there has been a lot of ups and downs in Kobe’s professional and personal life, but one thing has never changed, he wasn’t going to stop shooting.

His 42 points weren’t enough, one great player can never beat a great team especially one with killers like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on it, but what has always been clear to me in the past, is now crystal clear to me now.

Kobe can’t get his 6th ring trying to carry the weight of the Lakers on his back.

Just like he couldn’t win his 4th and 5th ring without others barring some of the brunt of the pressure he is always under. I think the singular game that defines Kobe Bryant  is Game 7 of the NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics.

Kobe was struggling mightily. Maybe, he put too much pressure of himself, knowing it was a legacy defining game, but he was awful.

But, the Lakers team were playing hard even though they were shooting terribly. They hustled, scrapped, dived for loose balls and hit the offense glass hard. Boston was suppose to be the tough and gritty team, but they just couldn’t keep taking the body blows from the Lakers.

Then in the 4th quarter, at a critical part of the game Kobe got the ball on the wing and nailed a jumper in the exact same spot that Michael Jordan did against the Lakers in an NBA Finals OT game at the Forum.

Michael Jordan is a ghost to most people who speak on basketball now especially in social media.  The majority them only remember the back to back 3peats, they don’t remember the struggles Jordan had.  The problems he had early on in his career trying to carry subpar teammates.  The accusations that he was just a scorer, selfish and couldn’t make his teammates better.  The bitter playoff defeats to the Celtics and Pistons.

People conveniently forget all that when they want to throw Jordan in Kobe’s face.  The funniest criticism I have ever heard about Kobe Bryant was that he wants to be Jordan.

Every player who grew up watching Michael Jordan wanted to be Jordan, Kobe just came the closest and that bothers people.

After Kobe made that shot in game 7 there was a look of relief on Bryant’s face and trust in his teammates that I had never seen before. That trust was rewarded when Ron Artest hit a three that sealed the 5th championship and pretty much secured Kobe’s legacy as one of the greatest NBA players forever.

I never saw that same trust in Kobe’s face this year, it was like he knew deep down they didn’t have enough killers to make a real run.

He knew that Pau Gasol had hit his peek and Bynum still hadn’t figured it out. He knew the bench was made up of players who didn’t have the championship look and were just happy to play for the Lakers.

Kobe is a smart guy, he knew once David Stern blocked the Chris Paul trade they didn’t have the pieces. He did what he had to do, it is amazing to me the Lakers were able to secure the 3rd seed with everything that happened to them before the season even started.

I think this was one of Kobe’s best seasons, not because of the stats but because through all the distractions he mentality willed his team to be competitive.

But, this is the gift and the curse of Kobe Bryant. He only knows one speed, one way to do things. His mind is a trigger when things are going wrong he shoots first and ask questions later.

The Lakers as they are presently constructed can’t win a NBA title, they need a younger superstar to pair with Kobe. Be it Dwight Howard, Deron Williams or CP3 (who can become a free agent after next season).  They need bench players who can earn Kobe’s respect and trust.

Players like Ramon Sessions aren’t bad NBA players, but you have to have a certain makeup to be a championship player and those players are missing from the Lakers.  Kobe Bryant doesn’t care about your feelings.

The reason is simple while Kobe’s desire to win is so great it breaks other players more sensitive egos in the process.

I don’t know if Andrew Bynum will ever be a franchise player, but if the Lakers decide to make him the centerpiece it has to be a 1a/1b situation with he and Kobe. That goes for any top player that comes to the Lakers.

Kobe like it or not, has to cede some control of the Lakers offensively.  It doesn’t mean he isn’t the leader and occasionally won’t need to drop a 40 point game, but he needs to pace himself and the only way he can do that is to lessen his offensive load.  Kobe will be 50 and still probably could average 20 PPG, he is that good of an offensive player, but it won’t lead to championships.

If the Lakers bring in those better pieces, Kobe has to dial it down and help build the confidence of those players up.  Part of being clutch is believing in your teammates.  Kobe had no reasons to trust his teammates this year, but going forward he will have no choice, he will have to sink or swim with whoever they have.

If Kobe is the 1st, 2nd and 3rd option before someone else the Lakers are doomed.

Kobe is great and can lead a team to the front door of Jacob the Jeweler, but he needs help to leave with a ring. He has to be more like Jason Bourne and less like Jason Voorhees.  He has to pick and choose when to kill.  It isn’t even about points it is about efficiency.  Not so many difficult shots, Kobe can make life more easier for himself, if he can make opposing teams respect your teammates game.

One of the reasons I believe he faltered a bit in the 4th quarters against the Thunder was simply because the burden of keeping the Lakers in the game for three quarters had worn him out.  In the end they still lost in five games, so no matter how hard he tried to do it alone he needs help.

Kobe has to accept and embrace the changes that are coming. He will be entering his 17th year in the NBA at some point the body will break, he is running out of time and opportunities.

He is Jack Bauer at the end of “24” looking up at a monitor with all eyes on him and Chloe telling him he only has few minutes to escape.

Clock is ticking Kobe……Clock is ticking…..