Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be involved in a practice with the Los Angeles Lakers? To go one-on-one with Kobe Bryant and see how you'd hold your own against one of the greatest of all-time?
For those of you who answered that question with the word "yes," please proceed to reconsider. As Ramona Shelburne of ESPN Los Angeles reports, it may be the worst time of your life.
"I make guys uncomfortable. When I practice, everybody is a little uncomfortable," [Kobe] Bryant said. "If you want to get to that next level, if a guy's guarding you in practice, you have to punish him and send him a message. Make the guy who is guarding you think about if he wants to play in the NBA anymore."
Although riveting, this isn't a random piece of information to help you get through your day at work. Instead, it is a reflection of what type of player and leader Bryant has become over the span of his 16 years in the league.
It's also an example of what he will be teaching his newest teammate: Dwight Howard.
Howard is widely considered to be the most dominant big man in the NBA. He's one of the greatest interior defenders in league history and may just be the best pick-and-roll finisher the NBA has to offer. Even still, many believe that Howard lacks the necessary mean streak to win a title.
D-12's comical side has begun to catch up to him.
Bryant has taken note of said theories and responded to them with high praise. Unlike Andrew Bynum, who many felt was in need of extreme development, Bryant believes Howard to have all of the mental tools necessary to take his game to the next level.
An NBA championship level.
"[For] Dwight [Howard]...to be a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, you've got to have a little of that dog in you," Bryant said. "It's just a matter of him digging deep and just pulling it out. But it's already there. It's just a matter of him having it become habit."
Many will debate Kobe's statements and claim that Dwight Howard is far too lighthearted to lead a franchise to an NBA title. His joking nature displays a weakness that most leaders of a championship-caliber franchise do not possess.
Bryant does not see things that way, however, as he believes Howard is quite reminiscent of a former Lakers great. And it's not who you're thinking.
"A goofball doesn't make plays like that," Bryant said. "He was all the way out of bounds, ran back in the play and made a big block on a dunk...Magic [Johnson] was like that. You saw Magic barking at guys. He was the point guard, the general, so you saw him yelling instructions a lot. And he's extremely competitive. But he still played the game with a smile on his face."
You know, like Bryant's former teammate Shaquille O'Neal. Right?
"No. They're different," Bryant said. "Shaq was a goofball. But Shaq was a big a------. I was a little a------. It worked well."
Through all of the explicit language and intent to agitate is one cold, hard truth that we all must accept: Kobe Bryant may not have the most conventional system for success, but five NBA championships speak to the effectiveness of what he does.
If Bryant says that Dwight Howard has what it takes to be a winner, we should believe him.
Through his time in the NBA, Bryant has become a vocal, no-nonsense type of leader. He does the dirty work that some head coaches, specifically good guy Mike Brown, shy away from committing. From calling players out in practice to forcing a mean streak into his teammates, Kobe is exactly what Dwight Howard has always needed.
Consider him to be Stan Van Gundy with five NBA championships. You know, someone that D-12 actually has a reason to listen to.
Whether you believe in him or not, it is imperative that Howard believes in what Bryant is saying. To have a high-profile teammate publicly endorsing his ability to lead a franchise to the Promised Land is something that D-12 has never had before.
It is also a beautiful change in scenery from the land of Shaquille O'Neal publicly downplaying his abilities.
Kobe has been around his fair share of elite big men. Each time, he has contributed to their development as a player, leader and all-around force in the paint.
Shaquille O'Neal, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum can all either proudly or reluctantly attest to that.
As long as Dwight Howard puts on his Iron Man suit and takes Kobe's in-practice berating as constructive criticism, he may develop into the player no one expected him to be. That, of course, is the next in line of the Lakers' great big men.
George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O'Neal, Dwight Howard? Mount Rushmore just got crowded.
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