Photo by AP

From the moment he soared into the Hollywood spotlight, his head shaved clean and his eyes bright, Kobe Bryant has been a ball of defiance and entitlement, a supreme talent who would concede nothing to anyone.

In a locker room dominated by Shaquille O’Neal, Bryant would demand his share of authority.

In a league ruled by Michael Jordan, Bryant would demand his share of respect and awe.

Over time, Bryant would earn his glory, in rings and scoring records and an endless string of All-Star appearances.

17 years into a career that will one day be enshrined in Springfield, Bryant has grown no less fierce or prideful, though a tinge of realism is creeping in, softening the edges of his piercing scowl.

Bryant will return to the Los Angeles Lakers lineup sometime soon—”probably weeks,” he said Tuesday—but he will return with an uncertainty that he has never confronted since his debut in 1996.

His Achilles tendon, torn last spring, is repaired. But his game? His dominance? His stardom? These are unknowns.

So Bryant is ready to make some concessions—accepting a minutes limit, if so advised, and a more grounded game, if necessary.

“There’s different ways I can go,” Bryant said, striking a reflective tone. “Obviously, the easier of the two would be if I could have the same type of explosiveness that I had last year. It makes my game very easy. But if it’s not there, I’m ready to adapt.”

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