Julius Randle’s Development Poses Final Leadership Test for Kobe Bryant

LOS ANGELES — His basketball legend already written in stone, Kobe Bryant's virtue as a man again has found itself bandied about the digital arena today the very same way as in newspapers, radio and TV 10 to 15 years prior.   

Meanwhile, Bryant spends his time working out with Wesley Johnson, teaching Nick Young how to watch film and offering secret tips to Jeremy Lin, so maybe Kobe isn't the troll scaring away potential teammates some media reports suggest.   

In reality, Bryant is only doing what he has done for quite some time. He wants to win, and he's doing what he has learned from Phil Jackson about pushing buttons as soft or hard to help guys grow immediately and give him and the Lakers a better chance.

Now comes Julius Randle, 19. He is here to build his own legacy, but how he does it will very much be a reflection on Bryant. Either Randle will support what Bryant forged with Pau Gasol or reinforce that Bryant sparred with Shaquille O'Neal and failed to connect with Dwight Howard.

The big relationships are make or break.

Bryant became an NBA champion in the post-Shaq era by giving his personal shooting program to Trevor Ariza ("I used it like it was the Bible," Ariza said), mentoring Sasha Vujacic on video analysis and defensive focus and befriending and mentoring Shannon Brown.

But it was Bryant's deep, effectual understanding with Gasol that marked that group.

And what makes a team go or stop is whether its stars are aligned or crossed.

A fair interpretation was put forth in Henry Abbott's recent ESPN article about some top players, as in the case of Howard, not being excited about the idea of joining Bryant with the Lakers. There lies a fundamental risk for any star joining the Lakers of losing his precious status of "the man" because of two factors: Bryant's control-freak tendency limits your opportunities, and you a...

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