Kobe Bryant at the Most Critical Crossroad of His Career

Kobe Bryant is the hardest working, most determined player in the NBA. Although LeBron James has many fans and experts touting him as the league's best player, Kobe's resume runs pages longer, particularly under the section labelled "Postseason."

It's hard to believe, but a decade ago Kobe was vying position with other young players such as Allen Iverson and Vince Carter to become the next heir of the NBA. His contemporaries have fallen by the wayside, while Kobe continues elevating to an All-NBA History level. The greatest players are great for a long time, and Kobe is one of the greatest.

The old anecdotes about Kobe seem so cliche. He's a ballhog. He's selfish. He needs to make his teammates better. For all the work he puts in on the off season, whether it's perfecting the turnaround midway jumper at a younger age than Jordan did, or reinventing himself with an Olajuwan-esque postup game this year, his mental evolution as a mature leader has been far greater.

As Kobe enters the twilight stage of his career, he is intrinsically aware that the next few years are formative for his place in history. He wants all the individual records as well as the championships, but these goals are becoming more and more mutually exclusive. Kobe's thirst for accolades is sucking the team dry of cohesion.

Recently against the Raptors, sitting on 9 assists and needing one more to snag his first triple double in over a year, he kept passing the ball against the flow of the offense to force one final assist, which he never got. It's a small thing, but it was still unnatural.

When he surpassed Jerry West to become the Lakers' all-time leading scorer, Pau Gasol retorted, "Now we can focus on winning games again." Again, it's seemingly small, but speaks to teammates who feel slighted by Kobe's self interests.

He's hurt but won't rest. It's virtually superhuman to play with two broken fingers, a bad back, and a spraine...

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