Have the Los Angeles Lakers Found a Leader in Kobe Bryant?

jack nussCorrespondent IMarch 2, 2008

After winning three titles with Shaquile O’neal, going to the NBA finals in the ’03-‘04 season, and after Shaq getting traded to Miami, Kobe Bryant was ready to lead a team in his first year as the Los Angeles main-man.  Bryant led his team to a 24-19 start, but then major injuries plagued Bryant as well as Lamar Odom. 

Kobe missed quite a few games, and Odom was gone for the rest of the season. In result, the Lakers missed the playoffs for the first time in a very long time.

Phil Jackson returned, and Kobe tried a different way of leading his team in the playoff hunt.  He averaged 35.4 points per game, including that highlight of a game, scoring 81 points.  He led the team to a 26-26 record at the All-Star break, and then the Lakers won 11 of their last 15 games.

The Lakers entered the playoffs with a No.7 seed, and with the new team approach, Bryant led the Lakers to a dazzling 3-1 over the phoenix suns, only then to lose it.

The Lakers acquired Vladimir Radmanovic and Jordan Farmar in the summer of 2006.  Kobe started the season with the team approach and led them to a 26-13 record.  Odom went down with an injury and was expected to miss at least 20 games.  The game that Odom returned, Luke Walton, who was having abreak-out year, sustained an injury, and the Lakers ended the season 42-40.

Kobe displayed his ability for high scoring, having many 50 point games as he carried his team through the stretch.  The Lakers were stopped by the Suns in the playoffs in five games.  At this time, Kobe was ready for a change.  The Lakers added Derek Fisher, and LA was ready to shock the world.

Kobe said on his first day as a Laker, "my only goal is to bring a championship back to LA and I’m looking forward to the challenge."  He has led his team by encouraging them in the middle of games, and motivating Andrew Bynum.

He sat him down and together they watched tape of Hakeem Olajuwon, and the Lakers jumping out to a 26-11 record, becoming “the best in the West.”  Bynum went down, and this time Kobe is making sure that the Lakers wouldn’t lose their season again.

Mitch Kupchak bought on to Kobe’s strength, by stealing Pau Gasol.  Since Bynum’s absence, the Lakers are 17-7 and with Gasol, they are 12-2.  The biggest reason for this is them finding a leader in Kobe Bryant. 

The overtime win over the new-look Mavericks was a great example.  For three quarters, he let his team play their game, and got them involved, and then in the fourth quarter and overtime combined, he accounted for 30 points.  He finished the game with 52.

After Sasha Vujacic missed a three point shot with two minutes to go in overtime, Kobe told Vujacic, "I have all the trust in the world in you."  That defines a great player, and that’s why the Lakers are back in the title hunt.