Will Kobe Bryant's Desire for Next Ring Put New Coach Under Endless Scrutiny?

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Will Kobe Bryant's Desire for Next Ring Put New Coach Under Endless Scrutiny?
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Kobe Bryant is obsessive. He wants to score, he wants to win, he wants rings, he wants to be the greatest. Since the moment he won his fifth ring, the only thing that Kobe wanted was his sixth, and if he wins his sixth, the only thing he'll want is a seventh.

It's his greatest strength and his greatest weakness.

He has been able to dominate teams in the past with an obsessive determination that couldn't be stopped unless you threw a car in front of him, and even then he might be able to jump over it. It's also been what made him an outcast to the rest of the league and an enemy to guys like Smush Parker.

Ever since his first title as Shaquille O'Neal's sidekick, Kobe has played for the next ring. And when he realized it was in his sights, getting as many as, or more than Michael Jordan became a realistic goal.

Kobe's insane intensity not only puts pressure on himself, but on everybody around him. It's gotten to the point where if the Lakers aren't at least making it to the NBA Finals, that's a wasted season for the them.

His limitless intensity had to be a factor in Phil Jackson's second retirement with the Lakers. Jackson had to be talked into returning for the 2010-11 season, and by the time the season was over, he was visibly exhausted, as was his team.

As the team bowed out of the playoffs, it wasn't exactly sadness on Jackson's face, but almost a sign of relief that seemed to creep across his face.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Then there's the shortened-season plus five games that Mike Brown spent in Los Angeles. 

Brown was criticized from the start by everybody. Fans were unsure of him after he was unable to accomplish more than being in the Finals with the Cavaliers.

The media were unsure of whether he could keep Kobe's ego in control. Vinny Del Negro might have looked forward to being only the second-most maligned coach in Los Angeles.

Is this all because of the city they're playing in and the history surrounding the team? Absolutely not.

For the past decade, whenever the Lakers had been in a situation where they were going to miss the playoffs or fall somewhere where a championship run looked unlikely, Kobe's situation came to the forefront.

Whether he was demanding a trade or criticizing the guys he was playing with, it was always Kobe's thoughts that made news. It wasn't a surprise that the Lakers weren't competing, (because they always had), it was surprise they weren't competing because they had Kobe.

Then to complete the Catch-22, their lack of competitiveness was huge news because of Kobe's complaints.

It's an exhaustive cycle that even the most mentally-balanced coaches have to get tired of.

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Now we're talking about the possibility--actually the probability of Jackson returning for a third time to the Lakers. If not Jackson, then possibly Mike D'Antoni is the prime candidate to take the reins from Interim Head Coach Bernie Bickerstaff. 

The story that always gets covered is the Lakers' struggles.

The NBA is a player-centric league. The story in 2011 wasn't that Miami didn't win the championship, it was that LeBron James collapsed and he was ringless for another season. It's how the league is looked at: from the outside-in.

Just take a look at this season: Los Angeles started 1-4 through five games in a season where they added an all-star point guard who immediately broke his leg and an all-star center who still isn't completely healthy after back surgery.

Yet, their struggles are news not just because this team of great players isn't winning. It's because this team of great players that was built around winning a title for Kobe Bryant isn't winning.

That's what it always comes back to in Los Angeles, and that's what amplifies the scrutiny. 

Whomever it may come in to coach the Lakers better be ready to deal with it mentally, because it's sure not going to be easy coaching this team over the next few seasons.

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