Kobe Bryant is Lucky to be a Laker

Dwight Howard finally has a new team. He’s officially a Laker, the soap opera is taken care of (for now), and we can watch ESPN without waiting for a “Breaking News” ticker that talks about another random rumor. We’re lucky it’s over, so is Kobe Bryant.

Kobe will likely go down as the second-best shooting guard in basketball history once he decides to retire, he’ll have scored more points than Michael Jordan, he’d probably have won as many rings (six) as His Airness and more than any other Laker ever, he’s a damn good basketball player. But it’s safe to assume that he’s also very lucky to be a Laker, not just Dwight.

Way back in 1996, Kobe’s agent gave the New Jersey Nets an ultimatum that if they took Bryant in the upcoming draft, he’d simply go overseas rather than play for the Nets. Next thing you know, Bryant gets drafted by the 41-41 Charlotte Hornets only to later get traded to the Los Angeles Lakers for Vlade Divac.

Before even checking into an NBA game, Kobe had already changed the fortunes of three franchise and happened to land with one of the most storied franchise in sports history. For their trouble, the Nets drafted Kerry Kittles; the same Kerry Kittles who was torched in a 4-0 2002 NBA Finals sweep that saw him get torched by Kobe to the tune of 25.8 points, 5.8 boards and 5.3 assists a game.

[caption id="attachment_1413" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="The Lakers have given Kobe Bryant plenty of reason to smile."][/caption]

The same year Kobe was drafted, the Lakers had signed Shaquille O’Neal to a $121 million contract that saw them win three championships together. Under Phil Jackson, Kobe saw seven NBA Finals appearances, five championships and the most playoff wins for any NBA coach/player combo ever.

With Mitch Kupchak as his general manager, Kobe has reaped the benefits of many shrewd moves.

The gamble of Andrew Bynum being taken 10th in 2005 with a rare Laker lottery pick paid off with three NBA Finals appearances and two titles, even if Bynum wasn’t the centerpiece. The Pau Gasol deal will never be forgotten; regardless of how Marc Gasol has panned out, the Lakers made off like bandits considering the fortunes of the Grizzlies in comparison to the Lakers.

The subtle moves of drafting a Jordan Farmar, a Sasha Vujacic, bringing back a Derek Fisher after he left and even bringing in a personality of Metta World Peace’s brought about championships. From beginning to end, Kobe has played on legitimate contenders for all but three years of his career.

This isn’t to say that Kobe wouldn’t be good had it not been for these moves, by no means is that the implication. The guys who have played with Kobe haven’t enjoyed the same success without him as they have with him. Shaq only won one title without Kobe, before and after. He’s been swept six times, Kobe has only been swept once. Pau Gasol was the centerpiece of the Grizzlies and never won a playoff game until reaching Los Angeles. Vujacic is out of the league, as is Farmar now.

But Kobe has certainly gotten the better of more than one trade in his career, not many people can say that. By the time he hangs up his shoes, Kobe will have played with Shaq, Karl Malone, Gary Payton, Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, that’s pretty good.

The special thing isn’t just that he’s been so lucky, it’s that he’s managed to stay the constant that other guys have needed in order to win titles, to be reach greatness.

Regardless of however you may measure Kobe’s career statistically, he’s had one hell of a ride.

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