Kobe Bryant is the Jay-Z of the NBA. When Michael Jordan retired, NBA fans around the world were desperate for a new king, the same way rap fans needed a savior following the death of Notorious B.I.G. There were several contenders, but Kobe outlasted the likes of Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, and Allen Iverson, the way Jay shook off Nas, DMX, and Ja Rule. Kobe Bryant’s destruction of a Laker dynasty with Shaq and Phil Jackson is eerily similar to Jay-Z’s feud with Damon Dash, which Roc-A-Fella records still hasn’t recovered from. Both, nearing the end of their accomplished careers, have looked to partners to support their own reign of dominance. However, with Kanye West, Jay-Z sacrificed the spotlight to make arguably the best rap album of 2012. Kobe on the other hand, always expects other stars to sacrifice for him.
The Lakers only shot to make the 2013 NBA Postseason is to trade Kobe Bryant. It’s evident that the Kobe-Howard-Nash big three has been a complete failure. Two dominating ball handlers with a center who has never not been ‘the guy’ was an obvious recipe for disaster. Kobe’s need for the ball and spotlight has stripped Nash of his greatest weapon, and sucked the life out of Howard, one of the league’s biggest personalities.
Trading Howard makes little to no sense for the Lakers. L.A. wouldn’t receive anything close to equal value for the all-pro and I doubt an aging Kobe, who has never won a championship without a dominating center, would be able to create a contender with Earl Clark and Jordan Hill patrolling the paint.
A Nash trade also isn’t the answer. That would leave the Lakers without a true point guard and wouldn’t solve the chemistry issues between Kobe and Dwight.
I understand that Kobe Bryant is the face of the Lakers, but this is a team that traded away Shaquille O’Neal, the most dominating center of a generation in what was perceived as the prime of his career. Would trading Kobe destroy the Lakers the way many fans predicted after the Shaq trade? No. In fact, I think they would be better off this season.
Without Kobe, head coach Mike D’Antoni would finally have a roster capable of playing his up-tempo style. Don’t let Kobe’s demand for the ball let you forget that Steve Nash is still an all-star caliber point guard, who was a two-time MVP under D’Antoni. With Kobe out of the picture, Nash will finally be able to run an up-and-down offense that isn’t constantly hindered by Bryant isolations and post-ups. Nash will finally have space to create an unstoppable pick-and-roll offense with Dwight Howard.
As physically overpowering as Dwight Howard is, he is even more mentally weak. He thrived as the face of a big fish in a medium-sized pond in Orlando, and loved showing off his personality to the local media while playing with a smile on his face. While D12 was criticized by many for appearing to be too happy and not having the killer instinct that propelled Kobe and Michael Jordan to greatness, being the happy guy was what worked for Dwight and made him the NBA’s best center. Kobe has tried to transform Dwight into something he’s not, which has killed their chemistry both on the court and off. Trading Kobe allows Dwight to return to his comfort zone as the face of a franchise who isn’t constantly looking over his shoulder.
Not only does the idea of a current Laker roster without Kobe excite me, but also think about what assets they could get in return in a Bryant trade. Teams that are a Kobe Bryant presence away from title contention would offer a great deal, even if only for just two or three more seasons. For teams stuck in the NBA purgatory of “good”, like Denver, Indiana, Atlanta, Golden State, Portland, and so on, having two seasons of title contention with Kobe could be a franchise changing move. Would the Nuggets turn down a Kobe for Gallinari + Faired package? Picture what Steve Nash could do with those pieces. Or imagine pairing Dwight with a stretch power forward like LaMarcus Aldridge or Kevin Love. Would any team have an answer for that combination?
I doubt the Lakers would ever entertain any of my proposed trades, but they will severely regret not doing so. The worst case scenario is that the Lakers don’t make the playoffs, which is currently the case with Bryant anyway. We are not talking about Phoenix, Toronto, Sacramento, Milwaukee, Minnesota, or Charlotte. This is Los Angeles, and stars will always be drawn to the purple and gold. Trading Kobe Bryant won’t set the Lakers back any further than they were following the Shaq trade. They may miss the playoffs for a couple seasons before signing a new star free agent, but the possibilities of a Nash-Howard lineup combined with what they’d get back for Kobe is the best option at this point.
Bryant said it best when he proclaimed that in L.A., anything other than a championship is a failure. Look at how Kobe struggled to defeat the Nuggets in 7 games last post season just to be swept by the Thunder. He may be able to put up gaudy numbers, but the days of defeating the league’s premiere players are over. Not only will Kobe’s future not include a sixth championship ring, but a Kobe Bryant team will never reach a conference finals game ever again.
The Lakers have 99 problems, and Kobe Bryant is every single one of them.