Kobe's Relationship with Basketball Needs Space for Lakers to Succeed

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Kobe's Relationship with Basketball Needs Space for Lakers to Succeed
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

In the past 16 years that Kobe Bryant has been in the NBA, one statement he's made has always stood out above all the rest. 

It was absolutely genuine from the first word to the last. 

It belied the truly calculating nature of Kobe.

And it validated what the man's end goal is in the NBA—his legacy. 

"I got one more than Shaq."

At first glance, this statement may seem like Kobe's long-awaited retort to Shaq's infamous diss rap. 

But in actuality, it had more to do with the fact that critics always slammed Kobe for needing Shaq to win a ring. 

Which is why his quest to win one without Shaq was as much of a monkey on his back as it was for LeBron to win a ring, period.

And when Kobe finally did it, he beamed proudly and essentially told all of his critics with every fiber of his being that they could all tell him how his posterior tastes. 

Because, at the end of the day, we all know the Lakers start and end with how far Kobe Bryant can take them.

Contrarily, we haven't all come to terms with the fact that his day starts and ends with how far he can take his legacy in the game of basketball. 

The most revealing stat of last night's loss for the Los Angeles Lakers was actually more redundant than anything else: The Lakers' win percentage is much better when Kobe shoots less. 

If you want to tell me Kobe doesn't already know that, I'll call you naive. 

If you want to believe Kobe needs to do that because most of his teammates stink, I'll laugh in your denial-ridden face. 

Finally, if you want to think that Dwight Howard's decision to re-sign with the Lakers this summer is already in the bag and that he loves playing with Kobe Bryant, you have a rude awakening coming to you. 

Keep in mind, Dwight was never really into the Lakers until the most unselfish player in the league, Steve Nash, came aboard. 

And I'm sure, in Howard's mind, Nash's unselfishness theoretically provided enough of a buffer for him to tolerate being on a team with a guy like Kobe. 

If not, he could always leave.

Look, if there's a common theme to everything I'm saying, it's this: Kobe needs the game of basketball way too much. 

We all have heard about his renowned work ethic. 

The man could be nothing short of playing on crutches and he'd still lace them up. 

He barks at his teammates like an overbearing parent, criticizing them both on and off the court. 

Hey Gasol, thanks for the two rings, but, just between you and I, and the rest of the United States of America, could you put on those big boy pants? I think they're on sale at the Gap, actually. 

Here's my question, though. 

For years, we have commended Kobe for his work ethic, his toughness and his willingness to be the bad guy because we believe he did all of that so that the Lakers have the best chance of winning. 

Yet if he's willing to go so far and his end goal is really more about winning than his legacy, then why wouldn't he make the simple adjustment of shooting less when stats have proven the Lakers' win percentage is dramatically better?

You know why.

It's because it really is all about his legacy. 

And all I can say about that is that if his legacy isn't primarily intertwined with winning, then he seriously needs to adjust his hands-on relationship with the game of basketball from "married" to "friends with benefits."

It will help the Lakers win more. 

It will boost the morale of the team to know that the star player doesn't have any ulterior motives beyond the team. 

It will make Dwight Howard want to stay in L.A. 

Most importantly, it will allow Kobe to regain ownership of his soul in a city that's been known to use fame and adulation in order to enslave its "heroes" in the fickle realm of image at the sacrifice of being true to themselves. 

And that's a sacrifice Kobe Bryant should never be encouraged, much less applauded, to make.  

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