Howard will thrive as the next main star in L.A. when Kobe is gone.
Thus far in his career, Howard hasn't been the guy any team should look to as a leader.
Likely the best center in the NBA today—well, as soon as he takes off the anchor he has seemingly been carrying around while recovering from offseason surgery—Howard hasn't been the guy to lead any team into battle.
That’s his personality, though. He is just not serious enough.
From his always-joking persona to his fickle attitude about re-signing with Orlando, he hasn't exuded stout leadership qualities during his NBA career. It's hard to take a guy like this seriously.
This video doesn't help his cause either.
Bryant is the antithesis of Howard. He is never jokes, yells at teammates and is kind of a jerk, really. Most importantly, Bryant does whatever it takes to lead his team to victory. This is not the player who reminds you of Howard.
Bryant had this to say after the Los Angeles Lakers acquired Howard (via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com):
I want to teach him everything I possibly know so that when I step away this organization can ride on as if I never left...This organization has done so much for me. I'm so thankful to them. If you have the opportunity to get Dwight, get him because I want to see this organization continue to flourish and continue to be successful long after I'm gone.
Now that’s the statement any team would want out of its franchise player and not exactly the same sentiments that Howard showed for his former team.
Even after Kobe is no longer with the team on the floor, he wants his leadership to carry on, through Howard. Hopefully, this will lead to Howard to make good on this statement made after joining the Lakers (via ESPN.com).
I'm willing to go through that process, learn from one of the greatest to ever play the game, and I think it will be great. I think learning from a guy like Kobe, I know he's going to be tough on me but I expect that and I want him to do that. So, I'll take all the heat that he's going to give me because I know at the end of the day that's going to make me a better player and a better person, and it's going to make this team better.
How exactly is Bryant going to teach Howard to be that guy?
Well, imagine if these words spoken by Bryant about practice came out of Howard’s mouth. (via Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com):
I make guys uncomfortable. When I practice, everybody is a little uncomfortable, 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.
That is Kobe at his best. If Kobe can instill that attitude to Howard and Howard brought that same attitude to practice every day, Superman II would be nearly unstoppable in actual games.
If Bryant can help instill that attitude in Howard, to make Howard a coach on and off the floor, then he has done his job.
He doesn't necessarily have to make Howard exactly like him. Howard can still have the fun-loving attitude; he just needs to get that little bit of mean in him. He has to hold teammates accountable, get in their face when they need it and to do whatever it takes to make sure his team wins championships—because it's LA, that is all that matters.
Howard can actually be one of the rare players, like a Magic Johnson, who can lead a team while having his teammates like him. Howard can still be himself. He just needs to be more assertive.
He can joke around when it's called for, but in his time under Bryant, Howard should be learning when to get serious. Hanging around Kobe all the time, this should be very easy to do.
Howard's talent is unquestioned. He is a three-time defensive player of the year and a dominant force in the post. He just needs guidance from Bryant to maximize his skills and attitude.
Kobe will be able to leave his mark on the Lakers long after he is gone—through the leadership qualities that he will hopefully instill in Howard. If Dwight is the man that leads the Lakers to multiple NBA championships, we'll all know that Bryant was a big reason for it.