Lakers Basketball: 6 Reasons Kobe Bryant Will Capture His 6th Ring This Season
Sure, there are many proven and elite players that have been successful in the league for years, but no one in the past decade has been more consistent at winning games, and especially winning championships, than Bryant.
In a league stacked with big names like LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony and even Dwight Howard, Kobe has effectively marked his legacy as one of the greatest winners the game has ever seen.
Under the helm of Phil Jackson, one of the greatest, if not the greatest, coaches of all time, Kobe has finished the season as world champion an unprecedented five times — with an outstanding supporting cast lending their help along the way.
Shaquille O'Neal, who retired after last year's playoffs were completed, played a crucial role in helping Bryant and the Lakers take home three straight championships from 2000 to 2002.
And while the two superstars weren't always the best of friends off the court, O'Neal couldn't help but admire Kobe's game and legacy, considering him, in O'Neal's mind, "the greatest Laker of all time."
Although much is unclear about the upcoming and shortened NBA season, one aspect of the offseason remains clear: Bryant is anxious to get back at adding accolades to his career.
The following are the six reasons that Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers will hoist the Larry O'Brien trophy at the end of the 2011-12 NBA season:
6. The Lakers Are Seeking Revenge after falling in Last Year's Playoffs
It's pretty common for teams to be overmatched in the NBA playoffs, especially when they are slated to compete against an opponent that they have struggled to beat throughout the regular season.
Heading into the Conference Semifinals of last year's playoffs, it would have seemed that the Dallas Mavericks would be the team with the disadvantage. After all, they had only gone 1-2 against the Lakers during the year.
The Mavericks had successfully won the first meeting between the two teams, 109-100, in Los Angeles, but the Lakers were victorious in the season's final two meetings, winning 96-91 in Dallas and blowing the Mavs out at home, 110-82, in late March.
Their playoff series, however, couldn't have been anymore lackluster.
The series started off with a thriller, a game in which both teams fought until the end but eventually saw the Mavericks clinch the opener, 96-94.
The remaining three games all lacked excitement, as the Mavericks went on to sweep the Lakers in four games and end LA's dominance in the previous two postseasons.
There's no doubt that, after such a horrible showing in the season's final four games, the Lakers, and especially Kobe, will be seeking revenge on the Mavericks come next season.
There should be a couple of thrilling regular-season meetings between these two teams, and in the end, those games should help fuel the Lakers in their quest for a sixth world championship with Kobe Bryant.
5. The Team Should Excel with a New Coach and a New Offense
Phil Jackson is arguably one of the greatest coaches in NBA history.
He led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships, spearheaded by none other than Michael Jordan, and he won five titles in his seasons with the Lakers. Jackson was one of the brains behind the triangle offense, and when his teams were running that system effectively, he was hard to beat.
After failing to get past the Conference Semifinals last year, however, Jackson decided to step down as the coach of the Lakers and retire. Old age and the hassle of traveling around the country also influenced that decision I'm sure, but for the most part Jackson was just burnt out.
That gave Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak the opportunity to find a new and younger coach to fill in the void left by Jackson's absence.
Although many rumors circulated throughout the interview process, it was finally announced that the new coach of the Lakers was going to be Mike Brown, former coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
During Brown's stint in Cleveland, he led the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals in 2007, as well as earning the top seed in the Eastern Conference a couple of times and having the opportunity to coach LeBron James.
Shortly after being named the new coach in LA, Brown told reporters in a press conference that he was getting rid of the triangle offense and will be looking to install a new system that will give Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum decent looks in the paint.
He also stated that he was going to improve the defense dramatically.
If all goes according to plan, and if the team adjusts to the new playing style and excels with the new offense early on, then the Lakers will definitely be one of the favorites to win the title next season.
4. A Shorter Season Will Favor Veteran Lakers
Many analysts have said that the shortened season, cutting down the schedule from 82 to 66 games due to the NBA lockout, will give an advantage to younger teams trying to make the playoffs for the first time.
The shortened season also means that getting off to a good start in the season is vital for any team to have success.
While the teams and franchises with young players should be excited about the possibility of playing fewer games in fewer days, ultimately the veteran teams that have been together for a number of seasons will be the teams that excel during the shorter year.
It may be hard to fathom, but the older and veteran teams, not the younger and potentially more athletic squads, will be the ones with the advantage once the season tips off.
The Lakers, in fact, will be one of the luckiest teams when it comes to veteran play.
Bryant, Gasol, Bynum, Metta World Peace and Derek Fisher have been the starting five for LA the past two seasons. Unless a trade goes down and any of these players are sent to a different club, they once again will start the season with the same starting lineup.
The only probable changes to that starting rotation heading into the season would be that Steve Blake could potentially start for Fisher or that Lamar Odom could be used differently in Brown's system and become a starter.
So, while many analysts say that the shorter seasons favors the young, I'd have to say the opposite is true; should the Lakers get off to another hot start, they will be well prepared for another long playoff run.
3. Kobe Will Be Mostly Injury Free When the Season Begins
Bryant, who turned 33 in July, has been hampered in recent seasons by a number of different injuries — including an arthritic joint in his right knee and an avulsion fracture to his right index finger.
He has undergone three different kinds of knee procedures since 2003 —including surgery last July to remove unspecified loose bodies—and has continued to have problems with his right finger since sustaining the injury in 2009.
While it is unsure how his right finger has fared since the playoffs ended, Kobe did have surgery on his knees once again over the offseason. The type of surgery, however, could either help the pain dissolve completely or it could be detrimental to his basketball career.
The surgery he underwent took place in Germany and is called platelet-rich plasma therapy, or PRP for short. The procedure is fairly simple: Blood is drawn from your arm, spun in a centrifuge for about 20 minutes and then injected into the injured area.
The results of this type of surgery, while still in the early stages, are very mixed — since it is essentially prototypical and patients have not been tested over the long run.
Athletes are trusting this new type of treatment, however, as tennis star Rafael Nadal, golfer Tiger Woods and Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward have all reportedly undergone PRP treatment for their knees.
If the surgery on his knees was a success, and if Kobe had enough time during the long offseason to get his finger and any other minor injuries healed, then the Lakers star will be injury-free when the season begins and will hopefully stay healthy throughout the course of the season.
2. The Lakers Have a Talented Supporting Cast Surrounding Kobe
There's no doubt that Kobe Bryant will once again be the star of this year's Lakers team, but it surely doesn't hurt that he has a number of talented and veteran players surrounding him.
With the possibility that either Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum or even Lamar Odom off the bench could be the No. 2 scorer on a nightly basis, Kobe is allowed to be more aggressive from the start of the game — realizing that if he gets into early foul trouble, his teammates will have his back.
Gasol has been the No. 2 guy in LA since he was traded by the Memphis Grizzlies, but during last year's short playoff run, his numbers were considerably down from the regular season.
Against both the Hornets and the Mavericks, Gasol consistently missed open shots from outside the paint. He also never found himself in an offensive rhythm overall, and was overmatched by the opposing team's big men on the offensive and defensive sides of the court.
Bynum has always had pure athletic talent, he just has yet to put together a complete season. That may be due to his youth, but after being in the league for a few years now, he should hopefully come into his own during the course of this upcoming season.
Odom had a remarkable season off the bench for the Lakers last year — an All-Star caliber season. And while he wasn't named to the All-Star team, many fans and players around the league felt that he deserved the nod over his fellow teammate, Pau Gasol.
While any other player could have let that affect his mindset for the remainder of the season, Odom did not. He continued to put up great numbers as a reserve, and has a great chance to earn a starting spot next season if coach Mike Brown sees fit.
So as you can see, the Lakers have all their pieces in place (barring there is no trade prior to the season's start). This year's squad is still fully talented and capable, and should once again excel throughout the course of the regular season.
1. Kobe Is Determined To Become the Game's Best Player
Kobe Bryant is one of the most determined players in all of sports.
From a young age, he has consistently set goals for himself on a daily basis. If those specific targets aren't met in the time frame that he saw fit, he would simply try harder the next time. That's what makes him such a great competitor.
Early on in his career, Kobe was compared to the legendary Michael Jordan — arguably the greatest basketball player in NBA history. Although critics are still trying to compare Kobe and Michael to this day, there's no justice to either player in doing so.
Kobe Bryant has established himself as one of the greatest players of all time, and should be given credit where credit is due. Comparing him to the greatest player in history is not giving Kobe credit; rather it's giving his critics the opportunity to minimize all that he has accomplished.
Kobe has always done things his way, and he's modeled his career after that very concept.
Heading into the final few years of his legendary career, Kobe is going to be more determined than ever. Any goals and achievements that he has yet to accomplish will be targets, and he will stop at nothing until they are met.
One of those targets is surely to win several more NBA Championships, and while it is unsure if the Lakers will be able to contend for title in the years to come, they certainly will have one player with nothing else on his mind but winning it all.
Revenge, a new coach and offense, a shortened season, the healing of injuries and even a talented and veteran supporting cast are all major reasons why the Lakers are title contenders heading into this upcoming season.
The difference between being a title contender and a title winner, however, comes down to determination.
If each player on this year's Laker team is half as determined to win the championship as Kobe Bryant, then there is no stopping this squad from winning a sixth title with their superstar guard at the helm.