With the NBA regular season just over one month away, the Los Angeles Lakers have announced that Kobe Bryant has been medically cleared to participate in all basketball-related activities.
For Lakers Nation, this is tremendous news. The face of the franchise will be returning for his 20th NBA season, and will be as determined as ever to turn the page on last year’s embarrassing display.
Coming off the worst season in franchise history last year, fans are excited about Bryant teaming with the young core of D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle. The Lakers were also kind enough to add veterans Roy Hibbert and Brandon Bass in the off-season to help make Kobe look quicker and more explosive than some of his teammates.
For Bryant, he is in the final year of his two-year contract with the Lakers that currently has him as the highest paid player in the league. Hoping to prove that he is still one of the NBA’s premier players, his biggest obstacle will be staying healthy.
After playing a combined 41 games in the last two seasons, there is no denying that Kobe’s body is beginning to break down. Paying him almost $25 million this upcoming season, it would be in the Lakers’ best interest to have someone carry him at all times in an effort to avoid injury. Bryant is at the point where one flossing mishap or stubbed toe could end his career.
In the meantime though, Bryant has managed to avoid these catastrophes to return to the court. Lakers fans are hopeful that he has one last successful run in him, but it’s important to recognize that his impact this season extends well beyond the team’s win-loss record.
As the unquestioned leader of the Lakers, Kobe holds tremendous power in shaping the team’s culture for years to come. Notorious for being a difficult teammate, Bryant’s intensity and trash-talking aimed at teammates could prove to be toxic.
With such a young and impressionable team, it will be interesting to see how Kobe handles his role as both a mentor and the go-to scorer. Unfortunately, if the past few years are any indication, he’ll be the mentor for the season, but the offensive focal point for only a few games.
Enjoy him while he’s healthy, Lakers Nation.
Photo Credit: WarScapes