Kobe Bryant was his usual ebullient self at the Lakers’ All-Access event last Monday. The much-anticipated annual program, hosted by the franchise for sponsors and longtime fans, featured a tour of the Staples Center’s innards, the locker rooms included, but his talk was, by far, the highlight of the day. And, needless to say, he bled purple and gold to the delight of his captive and captivated audience. He spoke of roses and rainbows, cognizant of the change in outlook following the arrival of All-World LeBron James, and noted that “we’ll be champions before you know it.”
True, Bryant spoke from the vantage point of a diehard insider, imbibed with no small measure of confidence that may not be reflective of the Lakers’ current position. To his credit, though, he likewise acknowledged the work needed to get to where he was certain they would end up. And, to this end, he preached patience. “The patience is on all of us. We have to be patient,” he noted, even as he pointed out that those wearing the uniform don’t have the luxury. “As a player, you’re never patient with yourself. You’re patient with each other, but not yourself.”
Needless to say, Bryant was speaking from experience. In two decades of toiling in the National Basketball Association, he possessed a drive that continually compelled him to strive for perfection. And these days, he remains committed to excel off it, hence his presence, and success, in myriad business and entertainment ventures. And he understands that it’s also what propels James to achieve. He spoke of the 15-year veteran having to take over early in the season in seeming contravention of plans to distribute the workload, but with keen understanding that the ideal is what brings titles.
James being, well, James in the first fourth of the 2018-19 campaign is “not the recipe for winning championships by [any] means, but it is a recipe to keep your head above water, to give yourself a little breathing room,” Bryant contended, and he’s right. The four-time Most Valuable Player deemed it necessary to take over ball distribution chores in the absence, and given the inconsistency, of point guards Rajon Rondo and Lonzo Ball, respectively. “Now, it’s going back to teaching how to play the way that we want to play.”
For all the Lakers’ progress, it’s fair to point out that getting to the playoffs is one thing, and going deep is quite another. The lack of depth and experience will prove a bane in best-of-seven affairs against stacked opponents. Nonetheless, there’s cause for optimism. And who knows? Bryant may well have been on the mark when he claimed that, sooner rather than later, “we’ll just be laughing at all the Warrior fans who all of the sudden came out of nowhere.”
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994.