Another year, another draining distraction for Kobe Bryant.
The Black Mamba has built his Hall of Fame career with the Los Angeles Lakers on a foundation of drama and discontent, so what's to suggest he'll slow down now?
Granted, going through a divorce on account of marital infidelity is never an easy situation. Just ask Tiger Woods, Jason Kidd and...uhhh...Kris Humphries.
But we're talking about a guy for whom controversy is the norm. A guy who seems to feed off negative emotions—especially amidst turbulence.
Kobe's career first took off when he, at the age of 21, met the 17-year-old Vanessa Laine at a music video shoot. He enjoyed his first season as a bona fide superstar in 2000-01 after he and Vanessa married and his parents began what turned out to be a two-year estrangement from their high-profile son.
Bryant never quite got along with Shaquille O'Neal in LA, yet the two of them still managed to hang three Purple-and-Gold banners at the Staples Center.
The sexual assault trial proved to be a bit of a burden for Bryant, though the dip in his scoring numbers, from 30 points per game in 2002-03 to 24 per game in 2003-04, might just as easily be attributed to injuries, the presence of Karl Malone and Gary Payton on the roster, and the crumbling of the last vestiges of his venomous relationship with Shaq.
Bryant turned the sadness and disappointment of his wife's 2005 miscarriage into a season in which he led the league in scoring with 35.4 points per game—the high-water mark of his illustrious career.
Then came the summer of 2007, when Bryant first demanded that the Lakers trade him and then called for the front office to swap out Andrew Bynum for Jason Kidd. All Kobe did after that was win the NBA MVP award and lead the Lakers back to the NBA Finals with Pau Gasol by his side. He and his teammates subsequently parlayed the disappointment of getting handled by the Boston Celtics in a six-game series into back-to-back titles.
No big deal.
And if you're worried about some circus divorce getting in the way of Kobe's play on the court this season, don't be; according to the LA Times, he and Vanessa have already "resolved all the issues," with the court papers set to be filed in 2012.
The Bryants were married for ten-and-a-half years, and were wed April 18, 2001, in a small ceremony in Corona del Mar, CA. They have two daughters, Natalia Diamante, 8, and Gianna Maria, 5.
In the meantime, Kobe can use the emotional pain of his family's splintering to fuel him through a season which already had his doubters spelling out the end times for him.
At 33, Kobe is no longer expected to perform at the elite level that he and his legions of fans have become accustomed to, though all indications to this point suggest his knees are feeling great and that he still has plenty of top-quality basketball left in him. With the basketball court serving as his haven away from the media madness that will surely surround his divorce, look for Kobe to step his game up another notch. Especially since the Lakers will need him to.
The bigger concern for Kobe, at least when it comes to his on-court performance, is the degradation of and uncertainty surrounding LA's roster. The collapse of the Chris Paul trade ultimately precipitated the departure of Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for a bag of peanuts, thereby leaving the Lakers without their glue guy and most valuable reserve.
Throw in the uncertainty of starting the post-Phil Jackson era under the guidance of Mike Brown, and the pressure will fall even heavier on Kobe's thick shoulders.
And we all know how the Black Mamba thrives under pressure.
So forget about off-court hullabaloo bringing Kobe to his German-engineered knees. The biggest questions about Kobe's game this season lay with his teammates, not his bedfellows.