Based on Kobe’s career thus far, the only irate former teammates were lazy. This is what we know about Kobe. He is singularly focused on winning. Sure, he can hoist up some bad shots from time to time, but you can’t fault his effort. The man is an assassin who leads by example. He won’t ask his teammates to do anything he wouldn’t do. Kobe may not be the most vocal leader over his career, but who would you rather have: a leader who talks or a leader who walks? Actions speak louder than words and a five-time champion speaks volumes.
To be fair to Kobe, he came into the league at age 17. Do we expect a college student to lead men almost twice his age right off the bat? It’s ironic that even though he didn’t attend college, but recently he’s been dropping in on college classes educating himself for life after basketball. He’s called upon moguls like Jony Ive (Apple), Mark Parker (Nike CEO) and Oprah for advice. Kobe is a learner of both the game and life. You can’t be a leader if you’re not a student first. It’s been noted that superstars like Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant consider Kobe a mentor and that he’s taught them invaluable lessons. That’s high praise from stars who are only willing to listen to those they feel they can learn from. Of course, Kobe has had one of the greatest teachers of all time to prepare him as a leader (even when he didn’t want it) in Phil Jackson.
Phil wasn’t a better player than Kobe in his playing days, but his knowledge and insight of the game challenged the way Kobe thought. Sure, they butted heads to the point where Jackson demanded Kobe is traded or he goes, but they managed to figure out how to work together and we are all grateful they did. At this elite level, the feedback of your peers is what really validates. Kobe has earned the respect of his peers and coaches alike with his leadership results over the past 18 seasons.
Kobe is a ring collector — that’s why he plays the game. He has not only survived, but endured almost two decades of Michael Jordan retiring and LeBron James thriving. We forget that before his grueling Achilles injury, he was having one of his most impressive and efficient seasons of his career. It was only his sheer will to win — combined with Mike D’Antoni’s lack of player management — that halted his progress.
As he’s spent more time on the sidelines these past two years than on the court, he’s appeared to be more human. He’s more revealing in interviews, speaks his mind on different topics and seems more approachable all the way around. Kobe’s evolution as a player bleeds out of his development as a leader. He’s had to adjust his game to a faster, more uptempo game while slowing down physically. He’s chosen to share his knowledge with others, rather than keep it to himself. He understands the current player needs more coddling and teaching than those cut from his cloth, so he readily does that. Kobe has always had the opportunity to lead, but now more than ever, he’s relying on that more than his physical skills. Maybe he’ll always be the bad cop, but isn’t the results that matter the most?
Think of one of your best friends. How did they become one of your closest friend and part of your inner circle? They earned the right into your life by speaking their mind over time by saying the tough things you needed to hear. It’s not always a comfortable conversation, but that’s the risk taken for personal growth to happen. Development is the goal as a leader, yet in sports leadership is measured by titles won. In that case, Kobe’s not only willing to pass the ball, but also the torch to the next leader of the Lakers.[divide]
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