This Season is a Moment of Truth for Kobe

Kobe Bryant will go down as one of the greatest players to ever play this game. Some would say he’s been every bit of an assassin in the locker room, as he’s been on the court. While I’m certainly not willing to make such a bold claim, I will say (at times) his insanely-intense competitive nature gets the better of him. 16 years, five titles, seven Finals into his career…the man has absolutely nothing to prove to anyone.

Unfortunately, Bryant still feels the need to remind us of his ‘greatness’ at moments that simply are not beneficial to the team’s progress. Does this mean I want to run him out of town? Of course not. Does it mean I even think he should be limited to a certain ‘fixed’ number of shots? No, not saying that either. In fact, I’m fully in favor of Bryant taking the shot in a “last shot” circumstance on most occasions. Make no mistake, Kobe is still “that guy” when it comes to those moments.

We’ve all heard of the “trust” and “team issues”  players like Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, and Metta World Peace have echoed over the past 10 months. Initially, I took Ramona Shelbourne’s (of excellent article about players having concerns with Mike Brown’s offense at face value, but I think it actually goes deeper than that. In the wake of Pau Gasol’s recent comments about the team’s:

“Lack of concentration, overconfidence, and a certain level of selfishness, in general.”

I’m realizing the ‘800-pound-gorilla in the corner” isn’t Mike Brown’s offense, although it does look rough without a point guard. It isn’t frustration over lack of playing minutes, although that would certainly be difficult to endure. It isn’t even about Bryant’s total number of shots, although that can also be called into question at times. This team’s true issue is that Kobe Been Bryant has reached such a ‘height’ that he may be simply beyond reproach. If Phil Jackson, 11-time Champion, found it difficult to ‘rein in’ Kobe’s hyper-competitive nature, what can be expected of Mike Brown’s coaching staff?  Bryant has mentioned “having no rivals” (which is true), but what I would like Kobe to realize is he does in fact have ‘peers’. I’m asking Bryant to ‘help’ himself in this situation, by taking his leadership role to even that of another level.

Self-assess, Kobe…but not from your own perspective on this one. Bryant often mentions wanting that proverbial ‘6th title’ more than anything else, so why not take a easier path?  No one, in their ‘right minds’, would ever ask Bryant to stop or alter his inner-drive.  That would be an exercise in futility, as “tigers don’t change their stripes.”  I’m only asking him to make the same adjustments to his approach to the game as he does when he has to overcome an injury/adversary. Not only, because it would make his teammates happier and more involved, but because it will simply make things easier for Bryant along the way.

Notice how Dwyane Wade essentially ‘rides’ LeBron James throughout the course of Heat games, allowing him to pace the action? While Wade takes a backseat to James along the way, everyone knows who the ‘closer’ of that team is going to have to be in order to eventually be successful. What Bryant must realize, for his own benefit and for that of the team, is that feeding the post (Bynum/Pau) on a more consistent basis throughout the game doesn’t mean you are taking a “back seat” to them. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

A common method in boxing is: Pound the body, work the mid-section, pound it a bit more, and then go up-top for the knockout shot.  In order to be successful with this Lakers core, that will have to be the formula/method they employ.  Otherwise, Bryant can continue leading the league in scoring, thrill the crowd with a few more game-winners, and continue padding what has already been a legendary career stat-line…but it will end with ‘lost locker rooms’ and losses in the early rounds of the playoffs.  This is your ‘moment of truth’, Mr. Bryant.  What truly motivates you: the glory of winning, or simply having all the ‘glory’ for yourself?  Judging by my Twitter feed (@RealTalkOnSprts), this has been something even his most loyal of supporters have wanted to address for some time, now. You’re welcome.

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