There is nothing in the world that gets Kobe Bryant more excited than a challenge. The guy just loves the thrill of the battle, and anyone who doubts him or his team. This year will be filled with adversity, and there are already plenty of doubters.
When Pat Riley set out to sign his trio of stars, he knew what he was doing. But, I don't think he ever considered that he was doing the Lakers a huge favor too. All of the media, bloggers, and fans, have jumped on the Miami bandwagon, which is a slap in the face of the champs. That's just the thing to keep the league's best player hungry and his team hungry as well.
Never in the history of the NBA, has the reigning back-to-back champions, not been the favorite to win it all. That is just crazy. Even when Shaq joined the Lakers back in 1996, with all-star Eddie Jones, nobody was saying they would beat the Bulls. It just wasn't realistic to say something crazy like that, and Shaq was the most dominant player in the league at the time.
When the Lakers lost to the Boston Celtics in 2008, it drove Kobe to a new level of intensity. Pau Gasol hit the weight room, and got physically and mentally stronger. The Lakers came back from that embarrassing loss and manhandled the league to win the championship in 2009. Kobe went on to win the Finals MVP.
After the 2009 championship, there were still doubters who still claimed they were soft. The season was filled with injury, but the Lakers managed to get the best record in the West.
When the playoffs started, every article you read said Kobe was old, and couldn't be the player that he used to be. Kobe took all of the negativity personally; he got the knee drained and went on streak the NBA hasn't seen since MJ was collecting rings. His grit and will was contagious. Andrew Bynum fought through injury to help the Lakers get back to the Finals, to avenge their 2008 Finals loss to the Celtics.
Kobe and the Lakers faced their fiercest competition of the playoffs—the hated Boston Celtics. The 2010 Finals was a war of will and toughness.
Beside Jordan, Kobe is probably the most competitive player to ever play the game. So when people started doubting him, and when Paul Pierce opened his big mouth, Kobe turned it on yet again and the whole team was ready to fight to the death.
The series ended in the only possible way it could have, an ugly, dirty, nasty, defensive duel. And when Kobe couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, he didn't throw in the towel. He played lockdown defense on Rajon Rondo, and grabbed 15 boards. His will and his never-say-die attitude earned him a second consecutive championship and Finals MVP award.
Now, Pat Riley and the South Beach trio have given Kobe more fuel to keep him flying. The fact that everyone has forgotten who exactly they are dealing with has Bryant foaming at the mouth.
He wants to be the underdog. He needs people to doubt him; that is what he lives for, the opportunity to make people eat their words. We all heard about LeBron taking names. I would be more worried about being on Kobe's list, because you know he can deliver on what he says.
Kobe and Drew had surgery to repair their injured knees, and have been all about getting rest and rehabbing. Mitch Kupchak went out and signed Matt Barnes, Steve Blake, and re-signed Brown and Fish. All of these guys are hungry for a ring, and they follow Kobe's example.
So you can bet that the whole team will be on the same page this season, and will be ready to have the best season in Lakers history. And nothing less than a 17th championship will due for this team.
All of us Lakers fans should thank Pat Riley and LeBron for giving Kobe and company, the ammo to mount their assault on the basketball world. It sure will be nice to see that 17th banner hang in the Staples Center.