Kobe Bryant: GM Mitch Kupchak Is the Secret To Lakers Star’s Success

Kobe Bryant may go down as the greatest Los Angeles Laker of all time once he finally decides to retire, and along with thanking Dr. Jerry Buss, Bryant should show some appreciation for general manager Mitch Kupchak.

If Bryant is the force that drives the Lakers' success on the court, and Phil Jackson is the wizard who orchestrates, then Kupchak deserves credit for providing the players necessary to make it all happen.

Kupchak's brilliance is often overshadowed by the Lakers' success and broad range of talent on the roster, but ironically he may be more responsible than anyone else for the Lakers' last two championships.

Kupchak has come a long way since the end of the 2001 season when he officially received the reins from Jerry West, who decided to take his talents and vision to the Memphis Grizzlies.

It's hard to follow a legend and West embodies the word. Even though Kupchak was his protégé, the pressure of continuing the franchise's tradition of success must have been immense.

Kupchak's first significant move as general manager was bringing Karl Malone and Gary Payton to Los Angeles in 2003 in an attempt to return to the NBA Finals after missing out the year before.

Kupchak's ruse nearly worked as the Lakers were able to reach the 2004 Finals, before falling in six games to a Detroit Pistons' team who lacked the Lakers' talent, but were a picture of true chemistry.

The Lakers began to implode after the loss to Detroit in 2004, and Kupchak entered the most trying time of his career as the Lakers' general manager.

A rift between Bryant and star center Shaquille O'Neal ended with Kupchak dealing the disgruntled center to the Miami Heat in exchange for Lamar Odom, Brian Grant and Caron Butler.

Kupchak was lambasted for that move, and things only grew worse as a laundry list of ordinary players like Smush Parker and Kwame B...

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