Kobe Bryant solidified himself as the greatest player in Los Angeles Lakers’ history due to his success and career longevity with the team.
For 20 glorious years, Bryant served as a staple for the Purple and Gold through countless ups and downs. He is part of a generation of greats that includes fellow Hall of Famers Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki, who managed to stick with the same team for two decades.
This is a stark difference from modern-day stars that have become much more accustomed to a change of scenery throughout their careers. Although team owner Jeanie Buss has made sure that the Lakers capitalize on the movement in recent years, she is well aware of just how special Bryant’s tenure with the team was.
Buss feels that the changes in today’s NBA landscape will make it much more difficult for players to stay loyal to the soil, via Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic:
“With Kobe to have played on one team for 20 years, I really don’t think you’re ever going to see that again. It’s going to be very rare to see that. It’s just the way the collective bargaining agreement is, it encourages a lot more movement than it did before. And I do think it’s made the league more interesting, more balanced in increasing engagement in the offseason … there were so many headlines (during the NBA’s free agency period) that put us right up there with the Olympics going on.”
There is certainly plenty of truth to Buss’ comments regarding the nature of today’s CBA and the drama that comes with every offseason. Players are more open to exploring their alternative options than sticking it out with a team that may or may not figure it out.
Of course, that is not to say that Bryant’s 20 years in L.A. were set in stone from the moment of his arrival. The Purple and Gold solidified his championship expectations early on, and their swift fall from grace after the three-peat led to plenty of speculation regarding his future until he finally had the tools at his disposal to help lead the Lakers back to the promised land twice over.
Players like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard are among those that are adamant about staying with one team for the rest of their careers. Anyone that does accept the challenge will surely be joining some elite company.
Russell Westbrook thought of Kobe Bryant during trade
The Lakers once again made the stars align with their blockbuster acquisition of Russell Westbrook this offseason. Armed with their new big 3 alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis, L.A. has been pegged as one of the top contenders going into the 2020-21 NBA season.
Westbrook will have an opportunity to join Bryant in the team’s lore by potentially helping to raise banner No. 18. He admits that he could not help but think of his former mentor and friend when the deal went down.
“It hasn’t left my head,” Westbrook said. “Things that we’ve talked about, me and him. Just the potential of me being able to be a Laker and understanding what that entails. It’s just crazy to think about and that will be with me every time I put that Laker jersey on. That’s all I can say about that.”