Kobe Bryant has a strong legacy going into his 17th season. He's won five titles, a season MVP award and two NBA Finals MVP awards. Kobe's fifth in NBA history in scoring. He's won two scoring titles and scored 2,000 points seven times. Still, his legacy is incomplete.
With Michael Jordan edifiers refusing to believe that Kobe could be better than Michael Jordan—especially when Kobe has yet to amount the accolades Jordan has—Kobe has needed help completing his legacy.
Fortunately for Kobe, he's received help through the acquisitions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard.
Essentially, Kobe's legacy is furthered in two ways by the arrivals of Nash and Howard.
First, Kobe now has a greater chance of tying and perhaps surpassing Jordan's championship total. With the combination of Kobe, Howard, Nash and Pau Gasol, the Lakers have a great chance of winning a title this year. That would give Kobe his sixth ring, tying Jordan.
Winning the seventh ring would depend to a degree on whether Howard wants to stay with the Los Angeles Lakers. Howard might leave that decision until later.
To win a seventh ring without Howard, Kobe would have to work a little harder. He'd have to push himself a little more to stay in tune at age 35. Also, he'd have to motivate Gasol to keep it going and Jodie Meeks to take his game to the next level to replace some lost scoring.
Second, Kobe has the opportunity to retool his game to sustain himself in his late playing years. Playing with Nash gives Kobe to opportunity to expand his playmaking repertoire. While Kobe can still take some chances breaking guys down in isolation, he doesn't have to do it as much.
With a supreme ball-handler in Nash controlling the ball a little more, Kobe can work on making plays off the ball. The lifelong Laker can play off his man on the wing.
He can use a variety of cuts and moves to bring the ball to him for opportunities that he wouldn't be able to create if he were trying to create for himself with the ball in hand.
Also, keep in mind that this is the first time Kobe has ever had an elite point guard playing beside him in the Lakers backcourt. This relieves pressure that Kobe might have felt before to try to create for others.
Indeed, Kobe has put it upon himself to facilitate the offense and try to make sure it runs the way he feels it should.
Now, the burden is lifted from Kobe's shoulders. Kobe can do some work helping facilitate, but Nash takes the primary responsibility ensuring that the offense runs smoothly.
Playing with Howard gives Kobe just a slightly higher chance of making himself open than he had with Bynum. Howard is the most dead-eye high-volume shooter from the post in the NBA. He'll demand a great deal of attention, and Kobe may be able to play off that in order to attract a few more touches.
Taking advantage of these opportunities that his new teammates will provide him will allow Kobe to reduce the number of turnovers he commits and field goals he misses.
Some might believe that Kobe shouldn't need two new superstars on his team to help further his legacy. However, someone like Kobe always wants to be surrounded by the most talented people.
A player doesn't build his legacy entirely on his own, but is bolstered by having great players around him. Paul Pierce would have never achieved the glory he has if Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen hadn't joined the Boston Celtics.
Jordan's opportunity to win three straight championships late in his career was helped by the acquisition of Dennis Rodman.
The possibilities abound for Kobe with the arrival of Nash and Howard. He'll have a solid chance for at least one more ring. Kobe can take his game up another level during this late stage in his career. This just might help him as he tries to gain an edge in the greatest player debate.
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