The Los Angeles Lakers are a storied franchise with some of the greatest players ever to play: Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal and yes, Kobe Bryant. They have won 16 NBA championships, only one behind the Boston Celtics who hold the record.
Kobe took part in 5 of those championships not too long ago—3 with Shaq and 2 alongside solid players like Pau Gasol, Trevor Ariza and Andrew Bynum. However, the glory days of the Lakers seem to be over.
How did they go from top of the world in 2010 to the joke of the league in 2015?
Well, a couple of things happened in this 5-year span. Kobe’s age certainly didn’t help, and he continued to get injured. Gasol signed with the Chicago Bulls in the summer of 2014, Bynum’s career swirled down the toilet when he sustained knee injuries and showed a lack of care for the game itself, Derek Fisher moved on and retired, Lamar Odom moved on and retired, dealing with multiple off the court issues, Phil Jackson retired and then came out of retirement to become the GM of the Knicks, and Jerry Buss, the beloved owner passed away, leaving the reigns to his incompetent son Jim Buss. All of those events led Kobe Bryant and the Lakers down a steep hill with no solution in sight.
In December 2011 they attempted a trade with the New Orleans Hornets to acquire star point guard Chris Paul. However, it was vetoed by commissioner David Stern for no real reason. They tried to patchwork these losses, but it only ended up with a signing of a washed up Steve Nash and a disgruntled Dwight Howard, neither of whom worked out, as they both moved on from Hollywood.
As the Lakers tanked the 2014-15 season, they became a laughing stock with the goofball Nick “Swaggy P” Young, and draft bust Jordan Hill leading the way, along with the lightning in a bottle sensation in Jeremy Lin, who overachieved on the Knicks, and definitely underachieved in LA. They received the number 7 pick and selected 6’10” Julius Randle out of Kentucky—he injured himself and sat out most of last season. Fortunately, he has not been a bust, averaging about 11 points and 9 boards a game. The Lakers received the number 2 overall pick this draft and selected 6’5” D’Angelo Russell out of Ohio State. They passed up on the consensus 2nd best available in Jahlil Okafor, who slid to the lousy Sixers. Russell has been averaging 12 points on 40% shooting—not worthy of a #2 overall pick.
In addition, the Lakers had a very disappointing free agency during this past offseason. With LaMarcus Aldridge, Kawhi Leonard, Brook Lopez, Marc Gasol, Greg Monroe, Paul Mislay, Goran Dragic, Tobias Harris, Jimmy Butler, Kevin Love, Draymond Green and many others available, the only significant signings were Louis Williams and Roy Hibbert—definitely nobody to brag about.
Kobe has been injured the last 2 seasons while the Lakers organization crumbled in front of his own eyes, playing just 41 games in the last 2 seasons. As they have tried to find solutions, they continue to fail. At age 37, Kobe announced his retirement earlier this season. While his mind and heart are still filled with venom, his body cannot keep up, as he openly admitted. Averaging 17 points and 3.5 assists on just 35% shooting from the field, he is no longer a star, and does not want to be a “role player” on any team—he wants to be the main guy, and rightfully so. With an MVP award, 2 finals MVPs, 5 championship rings, 11 first team all-NBA selections, and 17 All-Star selections, he will certainly go down as a top 5 all-time Laker, and probably even a top 10 player of all time. With his cold-blooded competitiveness reminiscent of Michael Jordan, he will be remembered as a great player and a first ballot hall of famer.
Being selected 13th overall in the 1996 draft, nobody expected this much out of the Philly native. In his 20th and final season, he is receiving more appreciation than ever, leading the All-Star voting this year, even though he is not even top 10 in any stat category. This reflects the love of his fans, something he truly deserves. In my opinion, Kobe’s #8 and #24 should both be retired.
So where will the Lakers stand after this season? They will have $25 million freed up in cap space from Kobe’s departure, but who can they build their team around? With a 5-27 record this year, they will most likely get a top 4 draft pick, yet they will be in the same position they were in last season. The Lakers have had one hall of famer after another, but who will fill Kobe’s large shoes? With free agents like Kevin Durant available, unless they sign him, they will continue to regress as a franchise. The front office failed to help out Kobe, and now they are paying for that. Kobe’s legacy should not be tainted by these last couple of seasons. It’s only father time knocking on his door, telling him it’s time to hang up the kicks. And unless you are Tim Duncan, father time is undefeated. Kobe has accumulated approximately $323 million in salary money, and has a net worth of $360 million—so he will be just fine after basketball. However, the Lakers will not be fine without Kobe.
What should the Lakers do next?
About me: I’m Spencer Alexander Zied, an 11th grader from New York, New York. I love to play basketball, football and tennis, and am a big fan of the Knicks, Giants, Yankees, Oregon football and North Carolina basketball teams. I’m also a big fan of First Take and Sportscenter on ESPN. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with me on Twitter, on Facebook, or on Instagram (szied713).