Is Kobe Bryant the reason why the LA Lakers are at the bottom of the NBA’s Western Conference?
According to ESPN The Magazine, the answer is ‘yes.’
In an article written by Henry Abbott, Bryant’s reputation as a difficult teammate is highlighted as efforts by the Lakers to re-sign players and recruit free agents hit a dead end supposedly because of Bryant. Examples mentioned involve players such as Ramon Sessions, Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard.
“In the spring of 2012, after a trade from Cleveland, Ramon Sessions, the pick-and-roll specialist was briefly the toast of LA, widely hailed as the post-Derek Fisher point guard needed to steady the Lakers’ ship. Sessions filled the role admirably, for a stretch, before a poor playoff performance. If you haven’t heard his name in a while it’s because when faced with the option of returning to the Lakers, quite possibly as a starter, he declined,” wrote Abbott, who alluded to Bryant being the reason Sessions signed to the Charlotte Bobcats instead of coming back to the Lakers.
The team’s inability to control Bryant was another point mentioned in the article while referencing Bynum’s refusal to extend his contract in 2012.
“Andrew’s question in contract talks was: ‘How are you going to rein in Kobe?’ We couldn’t give direct answers.,” a Lakers insider said in the article, which was released Monday. “My immediate thought was, Well, he doesn’t want to play with Kobe if we can’t answer that question.”
As for Howard, things seemed to be headed towards the athlete returning to the team as Steve Nash and the team put their best foot forward to convince Howard “that this is a place his dreams can come true,” during a meeting.
That is, until Bryant arrived with an attitude … wearing, as one person put it, “hoops shorts, a T-shirt and a gold chain.”
“As the Lakers’ contingent settled into the conference room’s ergonomic chairs, it was clear that two-time MVP point guard Steve Nash, in a nice crisp shirt, listening attentively, was running Kupchak’s game plan. But Bryant showed up, according to a person in the room, in “hoops shorts, a T-shirt and a gold chain.” He had also packed an attitude,” the article stated.
“When Howard asked why his teammates let the injured center take all the flak when the Lakers’ season went south, Nash said he didn’t know that Howard had felt that way and that had he known, he would have acted differently. Bryant, on the other hand, offered a crash course in developing thick skin and a mini lecture on learning how to win. Sources told ESPN Insider Chris Broussard that Bryant’s lecture was ‘a complete turnoff’ for Howard.”
Despite Nash’s efforts, it wasn’t enough to prevent being alienated from Bryant.
“Subsuming ego and glorifying teammates is a winning NBA strategy, and it’s what D’Antoni and Nash attempted to bring to the Lakers,” Abbott continued in the story.
“After his first year with Bryant, Nash couldn’t hide his disappointment when talking to Grantland’s Zach Lowe: “I think it’d be nice to find a middle ground where he does his thing but the ball still can move for great parts of the game. … But I knew it wasn’t going to be the same. When you play with Kobe Bryant, the ball is gonna be with him most of the time.”
Although ESPN makes a good case against Bryant, Sportsgrid.com notes how 16-time All-Star and five-time NBA champion’s ego hasn’t prevented players like Chris Paul from being excited to play with Bryant when he was “traded to the Lakers in 2011. Nor did it affect Pau Gasol, whose friendship with Kobe made it “difficult for him to tell him he was leaving to play for Chicago. Or Metta World Artest Panda Friend’s decision to be part of the Lakers and re-join the team.