Kobe Bryant: Is Lakers Star Near the End of the Road with a Slipping Franchise?

Right now I know one thing for sure: Kobe Bryant isn't looking like Kobe—and the Los Angeles Lakers self-destructed on national television in the 2011 NBA Playoffs. 

Kobe couldn't close, much like LeBron the 2011 Finals, and the Purple and Gold looked inept at times.  In fact, they looked a step slower.

They couldn't get there first, and the other teams were beating them (I borrowed that "couldn't get there" from Jerry West).  Kobe looked slow and the end of his playing career is finally in sight.

To make matters worse, I'm one of the Lakers' biggest fans.

I've got the purple and gold shoes, the gold and black Kobe models and the list goes on.  But I'm hurting man.  Kobe is looking like the end is closer than we all want to believe, and this year he needs help.  

He can't do it alone anymore, and the Lakers lack a confident No. 2 guy to step up and take over the game.  Paul Gasol looked scared or distracted and wasn't a positive factor in the Conference Finals.  I'll never forget Coach Phil Jackson poking Gasol in the chest during a timeout on the sidelines against Dallas.

Kobe looks hobbled at times.  He's had trouble with his ankle, knee and fingers; his knee procedure over in Germany was quite surprising and makes one wonder how nagging his injuries are. 

He's going into his 16th year and the wear and tear must be tough.  Still, something is off with Bryant and we all see it.

Perhaps we don't want to admit he won't play forever.

And unless he recovers fully and gets a point guard and consistent No. 2 scoring option, he could be in for some long twilight years. 

The young guys are taking over the league and Kobe hears the footsteps.

Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, John Wall and Derrick Rose have kicked it up a notch, and some of these talented point guards pla...

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