Nevertheless, the unearthing of Kobe’s mentality as a leader of a 2006 Laker squad serves as fascinating basketball psychology.
Six years prior, Kobe had to carry a Lakers squad full of middling talent, including Parker. It was a change of scenery for “Bean” Bryant, who had only known of basketball life without Shaq down low for a short time.
Assuming the full-on leadership role, Bryant thought leading by example through his work ethic would provide the best influence.
Parker recalls Bryant handled teammate interaction differently. He cited Bryant was reclusive in a team setting, talking only to his security guards and sitting in the back of team planes. Individually, Parker remembers Bryant telling him that he couldn’t talk to him because of his lack of accolades.
Leading by accolades. That’s a new leadership technique.
Famed basketball columnist Jack McCallum added astutely:
What? Kobe was aloof and dismissive? To inferior players? To steal from Casablanca: "I'm shocked. SHOCKED!" bit.ly/RLlr1Z— Jack McCallum (@McCallum12) October 15, 2012
Kobe's methods certainly have credence, considering we all know he’s won two more championships as the Lakers' alpha male. The question becomes: does being a leader require being a good teammate in the job description?
Bryant opened up a bit with an abstract-filled Facebook post that shed light on his view (you can read the entire post here):
I'd rather be perceived as a winner than a good teammate. I wish they both went hand in hand all the time but that's just not reality. I have nothing in common with lazy people who blame others for their lack of success. Great things come from hard work and perseverance. No excuses.
This is my way. It might not be right for YOU but all I can do is share my thoughts. It's on YOU to figure out which leadership style suits you best.
Kobe’s post may sound like it came straight from one of his commercials, but the Lakers star gives a peek into the mental dilemmas in which an NBA star has to choose to lead.
Bryant may not have been Parker’s best friend, but in Kobe's mind, being simply a good teammate is not enough. Kobe brought an attitude to improve every day, never settling for what he was.
Michael Jordan brought the same attitude to the game. You never heard stories about His Airness inviting Steve Kerr and Ron Harper over to his house to play pool and hang out. The stories are all about how he raised the game of his teammates, and their memories are better off for it.
Kobe had to make the same sacrifices to win basketball games. Not everybody can win on their talents and get to play with their friends (see James, LeBron). That balance can be too delicate to manage, especially when turbulent times approach during the season.
The on-court and off-court personas are blended, misconstrued and create a Smush-Kobe feud six years down the road.
Plus, the word “teammate” only entered his vocabulary for media purposes. Parker seemed more down to earth in his approach as a teammate as well.
Kobe has five championship rings. Parker probably has more friends from his NBA days. Both made their choices, and now they're stuck living with them.