Bryant, fed up with a 6-16 record, his team's league-worst defense and, apparently, a rotten day of practice, lashed out, per Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times:
Now, to be fair, Kobe may not have been completely serious in his comments.
And as the dust has settled on what seemed like a sensational story at first, it appears initial reports oversold the intensity of Bryant's words. As the video above and Bryant's subsequent explanation show, what really happened was a bout of intense trash talk.
Per Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com, Kobe explained:
No, I was just being myself. I don't know if it helps them, but it obviously raises the intensity level. It was a tough practice for them...It's really good for Nick, aside from the fun of bantering back and forth and the trash talk, just fundamentally some of the techniques and things that I use. He gets a chance to really see up close those little tricks.
Despite the tone, the message came from the heart.
Bryant's outburst is equal parts futile, understandable and predictable.
It's futile because the Lakers don't have the talent to compete on either end, and no amount of prodding from Kobe or head coach Byron Scott can change that.
It remains to be seen if toilet paper companies piling on will have an impact.
I kind of doubt it.
It's understandable because Bryant has been pushing himself far past the point any 36-year-old NBA player should. While there's no denying Kobe's efforts as a one-man wrecking crew have marginalized his teammates and may even be the reason they've been so punchless, it's also true that he's killing himself on a nightly basis trying to keep his team afloat.
He's not getting help, and even if that's partly his own fault, Bryant is allowed to voice frustration that his 35.4 minutes per game have yielded so few wins.
It's predictable because this is who Kobe is—a maniacally competitive force of nature that breaks down his teammates and then rages at the fact that they've fallen apart.
There was a time when Bryant's wrath would have motivated teammates to play better. His own productivity and efficiency were once undeniably good enough to give his criticism credence. Now, though, he's hogging the ball, shooting 39 percent from the field and hurting the Lakers on both ends—as indicated by his team-worst on- and off-court splits, per NBA.com.
|Kobe Bryant's On/Off Splits|
|Minutes||Lakers ORtg||Lakers DRtg||Lakers Net Rtg|
Ian Levy broke it down like this in a piece for The Cauldron:
To be clear, none of this is meant to (or can) settle any of the long-standing debates over Kobe’s historic value and the prism through which statistics view him. This is simply a player coming to the end of his career, and playing—while not poorly, per se—in a way that’s neither good nor particularly helpful to his team.
The Lakers are in a heap of trouble, and while Bryant may be right about their effort level and overall fortitude, he's overlooking the fact that his demeanor and playing style contribute to those problems. Until that changes, the Lakers will continue to struggle.
And Bryant will continue to be frustrated.