As is well known across the globe, Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant retired from basketball this summer. With Kobe gone, the Lakers have moved on to the next generation of young stars including players such as D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram, and Jordan Clarkson.
The early returns on this new Lakers team have been positive as they have played with a renewed energy and passion in getting off to a surprising 4-4 start.
Even with the early success, any player who was on the team last year would admit that things are different without Kobe around. In an interview with Alysha Tsuji of USA Today, Clarkson admitted that things are weird, but that the team has moved on:
“We’ve kind of moved on. It’s almost like breaking up with your girlfriend,” he said. “It’s kind of weird without them around and stuff. But it’s just us. We’re in our own space now. We’re creating something new.”
No one will ever doubt Kobe’s credentials as one of the greatest players to ever play the game, but it was undoubtedly necessary for the young players to get from under his shadow to develop themselves.
Clarkson, Russell, Randle, and Larry Nance Jr. have all thrived in this new offense that Luke Walton has installed and that style would’ve been much more difficult to play with Kobe still around. Obviously, he is still very much respected, but it was difficult for these young players to relate to him. Now everyone is more comfortable, and the results on the court reflect that.
The Lakers are on the upswing with this young core, and if everyone continues to develop at the rate they are going, the team will ultimately return to the level it was once at when Kobe was leading the way.