Kobe Bryant will forever be remembered as the greatest Los Angeles Laker of all time. Kobe stayed with the franchise for 20 years, through the ups and downs, and retired a legend of the franchise and the entire NBA.
The Lakers traded for the draft rights to Kobe from the Charlotte Hornets, making sure that he started his career with them. Within his first 2 seasons, Kobe struggled to get minutes but was showing signs of greatness. By 1998, Bryant became an All-Star for the first time in his career.
As the NBA moved into the 2000s, Kobe’s dynamic duo with Shaquille O’Neal was starting to take shape. Shaq arrived in LA at the same time as Kobe, and the duo was beginning to take over. And with the arrival of Phil Jackson as head coach, they were primed to dominate the NBA.
And that is exactly what they did, winning three consecutive NBA championships between 2000 to 2002. But by 2004, their relationship blew up, and Shaq demanded a trade away from LA.
Between 2004 to 2008, the Lakers floundered, despite Kobe’s solo heroics. It took 4 years and a trade request for the Lakers to finally build another contender around Kobe. With the arrival of Pau Gasol in 2008, the Lakers went to the next three NBA Finals, winning 2 NBA championships in 2009 and 2010.
And in his later years, injury struggles and poor team decisions kept Kobe from reaching the pinnacle once again. But he stayed with the Lakers throughout, until he eventually called time on his legendary career in the NBA. Kobe was the definition of loyalty, staying with the same team and leading them to incredible success.
But some players don’t take that route. In the modern NBA, several players have left their home franchise to join a different team with All-Star players to form super teams and win championships.
Kobe wasn’t a big fan of this practice, as he said in an interview a couple of years ago. During the interview, Bryant said that you must stay with your team through the good times and the bad. And while he didn’t admonish players LeBron James and Kevin Durant for forming super teams, he didn’t agree with their approach.
“As a leader, you’ve got to be able to take the good with the bad. You can’t just, because the ship is sinking, all of a sudden, ‘I’mma jump off and swim to another ship’. You don’t do that. You can win championships in front of everybody, then you could miss the playoffs in front of everybody. You gotta be able to take both sides of it. If you’re doing something that’s so easy, then you might want to reconsider what you’re doing… Durant’s been a friend of mine for a very very long time. He’s been a friend of mine for a long time, so is LeBron and all those guys. Would I make the same decision? No. But that’s their decision, that’s their choice.”
Kobe does raise some solid points in his criticisms. He stayed the course with the Los Angeles Lakers and was rewarded for his loyalty in the latter years with two NBA championships and three consecutive trips to the NBA Finals.
But at the same time, players like LeBron James and Kevin Durant left their franchises in order to play with the quality of players their home franchises couldn’t lure. So they took control of their careers and went on to pave the way to their own success.
Regardless, fans will always be split on the subject of players forming their own teams with other players.