Bryant recently went off about playing with Parker in the 2005-2006 season, telling the Los Angeles Times:
Parker took exception to the comments, telling TMZ, "Kobe "told me out of his own mouth that I couldn't talk to him. That my accolades under my belt weren't deserving enough for me to talk to him." Parker also asserts that Kobe was overrated as a teammate.
Parker also made an appearance on Hard 2 Guard Radio to address Kobe's remarks and said:
“Basketball is a team sport. It is team-oriented. It is not an individual sport. It’s not tennis or golf, it is a team sport. When you are the star of the team, you have to make your teammates feel comfortable. You have to make them feel welcome. And he did not do that at all... “The reason I wasn’t a Laker after my second year is because I didn’t bow down to [Kobe]. I didn’t kiss his a–. I wasn’t kissing his feet. Quite frankly, towards the end of the second season, I stopped passing him the ball. I stopped giving him the ball. I started looking him off.”
On one hand, this beef appears to be random and has very little to do with the current basketball season. Parker hasn't played in the NBA since 2008 and an argument could be made that he's just trying to enjoy a small opportunity to be in the limelight once again.
On the other hand, if what Parker says about Bryant is true there could be far-reaching consequences this season.
Bryant is the unquestioned leader of this team, there's no doubting that. The Lakers have been Kobe's team since Shaq left in 2004 and it'll be up to him to lead this current squad to its maximum potential. However, doing that will require that he gets along with all of his new teammates.
With a bevy of talented players on the roster including new additions such as Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Jodie Meeks, Bryant may no longer be the best player on his own team. That distinction belongs to Howard.
If Kobe is unable to make new teammates feel comfortable, as Parker suggests, the Lakers search for chemistry with all of its new parts may be tougher than anticipated. Kobe must learn to go from the focal point of the team to a true leader.
As long as Bryant can do that, the Lakers should be as good as advertised.
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