The courting process for NBA free agents has progressively gotten more over the top every year, from the Los Angeles Lakers unleashing billboards begging Dwight Howard to stay, to the Clippers having a fake jersey retirement ceremony for Blake Griffin mere months before trading him.
Kobe Bryant has seen all of that process unfold, and it doesn’t sound like he’s very eager to play into it, or be a huge part of some theoretical Lakers pitch to free agents this summer. Bryant’s reticence to participate in the Lakers’ free agency efforts isn’t because he doesn’t want them to be good again, however.
Quite the opposite. Bryant just doesn’t think any player that would need him to recruit them instead of wanting the pressure of playing for the Lakers isn’t worth the team’s time, and he explained his thought process to Jalen Rose of ESPN when asked if he’d want to help Magic Johnson and Co. in the recruiting department:
“Recruit free agents? What does that even entail? Calling someone? Take them out to dinner or something? The thing about this franchise is that you shouldn’t need recruiting to come here. It takes a special person to want to play for this franchise and take the pressure that comes along with playing for this franchise. The pressure of following Magic’s footsteps, and myself and the dynasty that we’ve had. It takes a special person to do that, and if I need to convince you to come here to carry that legacy forward, you ain’t the one to be here.”
Playing for the Lakers has always carried a unique sort of pressure with it. The fans expect more because they’ve been spoiled by players like Bryant and Johnson, and the franchise itself often espouses their same ‘championship or bust’ mentality.
Those types of expectations aren’t for everyone. It’s in large part why Howard left for Houston, but it’s also understandable that the franchise won’t let departures like that force them to change the way they view the game.
Eventually, the team will get enough players that want those expectations to have success, and if a player doesn’t want success to be the expectation, they might not be ready for it yet, anyway.
That Bryant wouldn’t want to participate in any form of recruiting doesn’t come as much of a surprise, considering he’s been mindful of maintaining his distance and often explained he doesn’t have an interest in taking on an official role with the Lakers.
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