No one likes to lose. Athletes especially don’t like to lose. Hyper-competitive athletes are the worst. They have a visceral disdain for not winning. And then there’s Kobe Bryant.
If any current NBA player personifies the alpha-dog, hyper-competitive, win-at-all costs mentally, it’s Kobe Bryant. He is the top of the pyramid. He is the center of his basketball universe; Captain Kirk to everyone else’s red-shirted ensigns. Although perfected by Michael Jordan, Kobe has elevated this mindset to new levels given today’s social media world (see #MambaOut).
Still, Kobe now finds himself the spectator, sidelined for the post-season due to an injury to his Achilles tendon. Given his age and NBA mileage – Kobe’s been in the league sixteen seasons – it will be a tough road to recovery, especially for that particular part of the body that gets stretched and flexed on nearly every play.
Kobe also finds himself in a very unusual circumstance. Surely the aforementioned alpha-dog in him wants to see his Lakers teammates succeed and win through the playoffs. However, I would imagine there’s a part of Kobe that absolutely does not want to see the Lakers go on a miraculous run and win a title. It’s a no-win scenario for the Black Mamba, and as it’s been made abundantly clear, Kobe doesn’t like to lose.
If the Lakers get bounced in the opening round of the playoffs, there will be disappointment at the team level, and the reality of ‘off-season rehabilitation’ kicks into high gear for Kobe.
However, the real intrigue happens if the Lakers win. Kobe has always measured himself in terms of titles. He has five rings, one shy of Michael Jordan. Should the Lakers hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy in June, would Kobe be on-par with MJ? Is Kobe’s legacy six rings with an asterisk? More importantly, does the mindset in the Lakers front office with regards to Kobe shift from ‘iconic figure of the organization’ to ‘expendable player who’s past his prime’?
There’s been much conversation about whether or not the Lakers should amnesty Kobe. In layman’s terms, the amnesty clause in the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement with the Players’ Association allows a team to release one player from their roster and be free of any financial obligations to that player. In Kobe Bryant’s case, the Lakers would still owe him his salary for next season ($30.5M), but would save approximately $80M in luxury taxes due for exceeding the league’s salary cap. Why keep a player on your roster when you’ve proven you can win a championship without him?
So this is the no-win scenario in which Kobe Bryant currently finds himself. But if there’s one player smart, clever, and ballsy enough to figure out a solution in which he still comes out on top, it’s Kobe Bean Bryant. If you asked Kobe, he’d probably tell you the same thing Captain Kirk said …..