Some people are born leaders, while others develop into leaders. The Lakers without question have one of the fiercest leaders in the NBA today; Kobe Bryant. Even though Kobe and the rest of the Lakers are having a forgettable season, there is a bright spot for the next few years, while the process of rebuilding goes into effect. Having Kobe Bryant steer the ship as a leader, and more importantly as a mentor will be vital for the Lakers in the coming years.
Many players throughout the league respect and idolize Kobe. He is seen by most as NBA royalty; one of the greats. Unfortunately, this season has really challenged him and has made him question his ability to return to the hardwood.
It’s tough to see Kobe battle injuries as his career winds down, but maybe sitting on the bench with fire burning within him was a good thing for this season. The Lakers and Kobe would say other wise, but look how he was the only leader on the team from last year. Kobe practically lifted the Lakers to the seventh seed last year, when it looked like the Lakers were going to embarrass themselves and miss the playoffs with what was supposed to be the best starting five ever!
When he tore his Achilles against a tough Warriors team, it looked like Kobe was never going to grace the fans at Staples Center again. But Kobe isn’t a quitter, he’s definitely a fighter who demands a lot from his teammates. He’s really no different from past greats like Jordan, Magic, and Bird, who demanded that their teams fight, even if they had to carry the team to victory.
As Kobe sits on the bench, you have to wonder if watching his team lose is making him humble and hungry again? If he is presented with the opportunity to lead a young team like how the current one is constructed, would Kobe reach a height that no player of his stature has been able to do. Provide leadership, while being the mentor? It’s a challenge that may jeopardize his chances of winning a sixth championship, but basketball is about winning and playing together as a team. Kobe has the knowledge, will, and drive to challenge a young team to play outside their comfort zones.
Kobe presence is vital for the Lakers going forward. The Lakers may not be the top destination for free agents now, but the front office shouldn’t waste time bringing in certain veterans who are set in their ways and won’t commit to Kobe’s winning attitude. Kobe has gone through this process before, and it made him humble. Back in the 04-05 season.
The building blocks towards a championship team are not easy to come by, but Kobe has had the tendency to make players around him become more complete and polished. Just think, if the Lakers can get a top six pick in the draft, you better believe that Kobe will mentor that kid and show him the work ethic of a champion.
The NBA is changing. Older players are breaking down, and are trying to jump aboard contending teams. Kobe didn’t make that choice, he’s staying with the team he’s been with his whole career. Kobe probably knows that his last two years with the Lakers will be tough, but he can set the team up for long-term success if he provides the necessary tools of winning. Not every player that makes it to the NBA is a leader, a gifted scorer, or a star, but those traits can be learned and practiced. Kobe Bryant is the perfect example of a person who can offer those traits. Especially to a young and inexperienced team.
The Lakers front office may try to make the team competitive again this off-season, but really what the team needs is Kobe to become more of a teacher in his own right. Kobe can be the unsung hero, and could be the extended coach on the floor. His younger counterparts will listen and will rise to the occasion when needed, but really Kobe should show his future teammates how to win the right way, and more importantly what the Lakers culture is all about; winning!
No one is coming to save Kobe. “The Black Mamba” will have to adopt a new role when he returns. Whether he likes it or not Kobe Bryant will have to be the star while becoming the teacher. The Lakers took care of Kobe, now Kobe should return the favor, and help mentor a new era of Lakers back to contention. His legacy will never be forgotten, but a new era is on the horizon for the Los Angeles Lakers. Hopefully Kobe accepts his new challenges as an older wiser player, while providing leadership, toughness, and mentor-ship toward the new generation of Lakers. That may be worth more than chasing titles.