Kobe Bryant has first-hand insight as to what factor is most important in keeping any free agent in a purple-and-gold uniform.
As a free agent following the 2003-04 season after which the Los Angeles Lakers suffered an NBA Finals loss to the Detroit Pistons, Bryant was very close to signing with the Los Angeles Clippers. On Wednesday, the Black Mamba joined ESPN 710 LA’s Mason & Ireland Show and shed some light onto precisely why he decided to remain a member of the Lakers for the rest of his foreseeable career.
“I bet on (late Lakers owner) Dr. (Jerry) Buss being able to do what he said he could,” Bryant said in the phone interview.” Ultimately that was it. The history of the franchise and what he’s done, what he’s accomplished. I would’ve been a fool to go any place else.”
Buss is widely considered one of the greatest and most influential owners in sports history. He built the Lakers into the greatest show on the hardwood and was an innovator in every sense of the word. He was also loyal, and that’s what Bryant appreciated the most from him and ultimately why he stayed.
This summer, all eyes are on big man Dwight Howard and his looming decision that will have a major effect on the state of the franchise no matter what he chooses. General manager Mitch Kupchak has been unwavering in his stance that the Lakers want to keep Howard via free agency and are confident they’ll be able to retain his services. That feeling most likely comes from a well-established precedent that stars want to play in L.A., and like Bryant said, understand the history and championship pedigree.
But after an unprecedented season that fell woefully short of expectations and saw the late, great Jerry Buss pass on, there are many questions that still remain. What is the direction of the franchise under Buss’ offspring, and will the Lakers ever be as prestigious as they once were in the glory days?
Those are huge questions with no real answers yet due to a small sample size. No one knows what Howard is thinking, but Bryant went on to express that he thinks Howard will re-sign and take the reigns as the heir apparent hoops superstar in Southern California.
At this point, such a scenario is the Lakers’ best course of action.
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