Kobe Bryant's resume reads as follows: Five world championships, two finals Most Valuable Player awards, one regular season MVP award, a twelve-time NBA All-Star, two time scoring champion, and a fourteen time All-NBA team player.
Bryant turns 32 this season and for the first time in two years is no longer the clear cut favorite to win the NBA Championship, now that a super trio has formed in the Eastern Conference.
After LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined forces with Dwayne Wade and GM Pat Riley has appropriately filled the roster with solid role players, Miami looks to be the favorite.
But you certainly can't count out the West Conference's most dominant team, as the Lakers do happen to have arguably the league's best player.
He's also a rested player: Bryant took the summer off to have surgery on his knee and rest his now arthritic finger after playing non-stop since 2008.
It's also safe to say that even though Bryant may be a half a step slower, he'll probably come back even better next season.
Bryant is the type of player who would've been in the gym, working, adding and improving his game while James was making his nationally televised "Decision." He already is one of the most (if not the most) complete offensive player in the game today.
However even with Bryant putting in all that extra work in the gym and weight room, he isn't the key for a Laker three peat this season.
The Lakers upgraded their bench significantly after resigning Bryant's understudy Shannon Brown and bringing in Steve Blake, Matt Barnes and Theo Ratliff.
Lamar Odom and Ratliff will highlight the second unit's front court. We all know how Odom—who is as talented as anyone in the league—is maddeningly inconsistent, but Ratliff is a seasoned veteran and will provide quality minutes for the injury plagued Andrew Bynum.
Shannon Brown will continue to learn from Bryant and be the explosive open floor threat that he is, and the Lakers upgraded with the addition of Blake who replaced Jordan Farmer. Blake provides solid three point shooting and defense while being a stable point guard who isn't turnover prone.
Barnes however is key, he brings the same intensity as Artest defensively, and is a better shooter. Barnes will be looked to lock down either the best secondary unit player or the best player.
Bryant may be the best player but if he wants to win his sixth NBA championship his bench will need to produce; however unlike last season, the Laker head coach Phil Jackson will actually have a consistent second unit to rely on.
With Miami being the favorite in the East, for the Lakers to win it's not going to be on Bryant, Pau Gasol, Derek Fisher, Artest or Bynum. It'll be on which team's bench performs. Now that the Lakers have reloaded and upgraded they can still be considered a favorite to raise their seventeenth championship banner.