Kobe Bryant Painting a New Portrait of Career in His Return to Court for Lakers

SAN DIEGO — When Kobe Bryant took a trip through Europe a year ago, he wanted his daughters to experience some of the culture while there.   

A quick visit to the Accademia Gallery in Florence, Italy, was arranged. The result was a far cry from the public madhouse on the scale of Kobe in China, but the Italians and tourists there still swarmed around and trailed behind Bryant—and snapped photo upon photo of him while museum security offered minimal protection in enforcing the house rule of no photos allowed in the museum.   

When it came to Michelangelo's "David," though, security firmed up: No photos allowed…except the cameras continued to click all around Bryant.

It took Kobe's wife, Vanessa, to point out the odd double standard, and the Bryants were afforded a quick pic of the statue of David.

The broader point was plain: In this day and age, Kobe has put together a body of work that qualifies him as his own work of art.

And it's still a work in progress.

Bryant made his much-anticipated return to his usual public forum Monday night in the Los Angeles Lakers' exhibition opener.

Fortunately for Lakers fans, Bryant wasn't statuesque—even if the lift on his jumper is a far cry from where it used to be.

Bryant scored 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting in 21 minutes of the Lakers' 98-95 victory over the Denver Nuggets. It was his first NBA game in 10 months since a knee fracture derailed his Achilles comeback, and this first step was categorized a success by all involved.

But especially by the guy who has grown very tired of health questions and answered them Monday night by being more active defensively, in accordance with new Lakers coach Byron Scott's demands, than he has in years.

"Felt fine," Bryant said. "Felt like I could do anything I wanted."

To be clear, Bryant means he f...

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