NBA: Dwight Howard Leaving LA Is Just More Motivation for Kobe Bryant

John Nizinski@@jniz73Analyst IIIJuly 6, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 07:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the NBA game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on April 7, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  The Clippers defeated the Lakers 109-95. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

There are certain professional athletes who you just never bet against. Guys like Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Peyton Manning, LeBron James and Adrian Peterson have proven in recent years that you should never count them out. Kobe Bryant also belongs in that group of athletes.

Last season, Bryant was trying to carry a surprisingly struggling Lakers team into the postseason. In 78 games, he averaged 27.3 points, six assists and 5.6 rebounds per game. All three statistics were above his career averages.

However, in that 78th game, Bryant suffered a torn Achilles tendon which ended his season. An injury that could take roughly six to nine months to recover from and put the start of the 2013-14 season in question for him.

Bryant will surely hope to be back for the start of the season, and setting goals like this is motivation for the 15-time All-Star.

While his return from injury and proving he is still a top player in the NBA is plenty of motivation, Dwight Howard's recent decision should just add fuel to the fire.

The top story in the NBA this offseason was undoubtedly going to be where Howard would choose to play, especially after all the media hoopla he has garnered the last few seasons.

There were a few destinations that Howard was going to choose from, including the team he played most recently for, the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Lakers met with Howard to make their pitch of why he should stay with them, and Bryant was present at the meeting. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, Bryant challenged Howard during the rendezvous.

"You need to learn how it's done first, and I can teach you here. You have to learn how it's done," Bryant said to Howard. "I know how to do it and I've learned from the best players who have won multiple times over and over."

This pitch from Bryant shows how important he felt Howard was to the franchise. Bryant tried to pull out all the strings and convince the top big man and rebounder from last season to stay in Hollywood.

Despite his efforts, Howard has reportedly agreed to take his talents to Houston and play alongside James Harden and whoever else will be on the Rockets roster next season.

I don't know Bryant personally, but I would assume that he doesn't take rejection lightly. And Howard's decision to leave the Lakers is probably going to motivate No. 24 even more.

One piece of evidence that Bryant is not thrilled with his former teammate is that he apparently unfollowed Howard on Twitter. Bryant's next step is most likely to prove to Howard and everyone else that he made a mistake in his decision.

Bryant, who will be 35 years young next month, currently has more points than anyone to ever play in the NBA not named Michael Jordan, Karl Malone or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He has five NBA championships and would obviously like to win one more before he rides off in the sunset.

Having Howard leave just adds to the difficulty of that task. So now, not only is Bryant an aging superstar coming off an injury, but he also lost a teammate who is arguably a top-five player in the league.

But like I said earlier, there are certain athletes you should never bet against. And the more drive and motivation Bryant can acquire, the more dangerous the Black Mamba becomes.