The Los Angeles Lakers rank second in NBA championships after the Boston Celtics. The Lakers are written deep into the DNA of the league, from Jerry West-Wilt Chamberlain to Magic-Kareem-Worthy Showtime to Phil Jackson’s Shaq-n-Kobe show, the purple-and-gold have created many of basketball’s most iconic images. Then there’s now. For the past few seasons as the Lakers suffered indignity after indignity — breaking records for franchise futility — much blame was laid at the once-flying feet of Kobe Bryant. The criticisms of Bryant’s long twilight, which coincided with lots of Lakers losing, were many: Bryant shot too much, shared too little, was arrogant, didn’t give the young guys credit and on and on.
It got to where Lakers fans bought into the idea that Bryant might be the problem. Many started to believe that once the Lakers said goodbye to their Hall of Fame shoo-in, the team would reconstitute around youth and energy and bring winning ways back to LA. To this way of thinking, Bryant’s long retirement tour was a detrimental distraction to a team that otherwise could pursue glory. Currently on an 8-game losing streak after a loss to the Brooklyn Nets, the Lakers (10-18) may not want Kobe Bryant back. But fans can no longer believe he was the real obstacle to glory’s return.