When you've spent more than a decade in the NBA, there is a high probability that you've rubbed a few people the wrong way. Everyone from Michael Jordan to Jim Jackson could attest to that, no matter how well-perceived they may be through the media.
Bryant has always been controversial. From his well-documented feuds with Shaquille O'Neal and Smush Parker to his infamous court case, Kobe has never been able to escape the spotlight.
For better or worse.
The latest episode in the Kobe saga has seen ex-teammate and injured center Andrew Bynum reflect on his days with the Lakers. According to Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles, Bynum had choice words for Bryant.
Comments that suggest Howard may face the same unfortunate fate.
"I thought it really helped me a lot obviously at first, because he draws so much attention it's hard for guys to double team and key on you, so it helped me tremendously," Bynum told a group of L.A. reporters before the Lakers played the Sixers on Sunday. "Later, I felt I was able to get the ball more and do more things with the ball, so I could definitely see how it could stunt growth."
As for those who believe that this will be the start of a rivalry between Bynum and Bryant, don't jump the gun. Kobe acknowledged every word of this to be true.
He did so without any sense of anger or betrayal.
"For sure, because when you're playing with me you obviously have to sacrifice something," Bryant said. "Same thing with me and [Shaquille O'Neal]. You kind of off-set each other to a certain extent. So, I mean, that's true. When he gets back and he's healthy, he'll come out here and he'll be the focal point of their attack and he'll be getting the ball more and you'll see big games from him more consistently.
So what does this mean for Dwight Howard?
"I think Dwight is a great player, but he's going to have to get accustomed to playing with Kobe and not touching the ball every single play," Bynum said.
Controversial or not, Bynum's comments hold truth.
D-12 will not touch the ball every time down the floor. In fact, he may not even be the second option on the offensive end of the floor once Steve Nash and Pau Gasol return from injury.
Even still, Howard's future in Los Angeles will have nothing to do with Bryant's past as a supposed hindrance to the center position.
Will Dwight Howard re-sign with the Los Angeles Lakers?
Working Off of the Ball
In terms of Andrew Bynum's comments about playing with Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal can relate. Bryant's need for the ball in his hands occasionally took the big men out of the flow of the game.
Dwight Howard, however, does not follow the same style of play.
Howard is more of a pick-and-roll finisher with a tendency to dominate the offensive glass. O'Neal and Bynum were capable in said areas, but they thrived in the low-post.
Unless D-12's offensive approach changes, he will be at his best while working off of the ball.
Furthermore, neither O'Neal nor Bynum had a true facilitator at the helm during their times with Bryant. With all due respect to Ron Harper and Derek Fisher, who both won five NBA championships under Phil Jackson, neither are the caliber point guard that Steve Nash has proven to be.
Which is exactly why Howard will see more touches alongside Kobe than any center in the past.
All About the Rings; Not Kobe's
We've already established that Kobe Bryant's past will not have an adverse effect on Dwight Howard's future. We must also acknowledge that it will not influence him to stay.
No matter how pretty those five NBA championship rings may look on Kobe's hand, it's a matter of "What have you done for me lately?"
According to John Denton of the Official Orlando Magic Website, Howard would be willing to sign elsewhere come free agency. That is, if another team were capable of providing a better shot at winning an NBA championship than the Lakers.
After all, Howard will only get "one shot."
You only get one shot. People might not ever understand that, but at the end of the day it’s not their life. You can’t let anybody else dictate how they want your life to be. I only have one shot to play and do something that I love. Not everybody is blessed and have an opportunity to do what they love.
So I want to do it the best that I can and I’m going to take everything in I can to get what I can out of the NBA. Which, for me, is winning a championship. So if I have to play on another team or do whatever I have to do to get one, that’s my goal. This is my passion, so I’ll continue to fight.
You only get one chance, so why not do it right?
If Bryant is unable to lead the Lakers to legitimate championship contention in 2012-13, Howard will not sign on for future attempts. Kobe may be the most decorated active NBA player, but he's not the only one capable of leading his team to the gold.
He's also the furthest thing from young.
Potential for Retirement
According to a post on the Sulia page of Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register, Kobe Bryant speculated that next season may be his last chance to play against his hometown team of the Philadelphia 76ers. In other words, Bryant is considering retirement.
Yet another reason his past is meaningless to Dwight Howard.
If Bryant were to retire, Howard would be in a similar predicament in L.A. as he was in Orlando: alone at the helm of a franchise with nothing yet in place to complement his abilities.
With that being said, there would be a mountain of cap space cleared up by Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace's potential departures.
The question is, would that potential be enough to keep Howard in town?
This is not to sell Kobe's career achievements short, as he's one of the greatest to ever step on the NBA hardwood. The issue is that Howard is looking to win titles of his own, not admire another man's trophy case.
Just don't think D-12 isn't excited to play under Kobe's guidance.
During the 2012 NBA All-Star weekend, Howard was asked which player he could play with in a "fantasy world." Howard laughed and then responded with an answer that seemed to tell the future (via YouTube).
No. 24, Kobe Bryant...Just an unbelievable person to be around. To talk to and pick his brain, he's great. And he's a good guy, so, that's why I'd want to have him on my team.
He now has his wish.
Past comments aside, the Lakers must prove that the future is bright in order to keep Howard in town. Otherwise, they will be subjected to the harsh reality that most should have seen coming.
Placing D-12 on a championship-contending team is the only way to keep him in town.