Kobe Bryant Plots to Use Influence as Lakers Plot Rebuilding Course

LOS ANGELES — The legend has been built on the points and the championships.

The mystique comes from the persona.

Whether through the eyes of Shaquille O'Neal or Pau Gasol, 2004 Phil Jackson or 2011 Phil Jackson, fans who love him or fans who hate him, Kobe Bryant has always been the same controversial, compelling character: cocky jerk.

The difference lies in whether people frown and shake their heads that he's a cocky jerk who doesn't care about others...or they smile and shake their heads that he's a cocky jerk with heart, work ethic and a good sense of humor about it.

After what stands as the unequivocal worst season in Bryant's 18-year career, the expected personal redemption instead giving way to reborn futility, his basketball mortality is a very real concern.

What would register even more on a human level would be if the persona were dying, too.


Here was the innocent question directed to Bryant's Twitter account on March 27: "Do you have a favorite season out of the many that you've had with the Lakers?"

Bryant's pitch-perfect reply: "Yes. Next season."

This was the cocky jerk at his most inspirational, the unwavering self-assuredness his springboard to being optimistic, bold and unafraid. Bryant showed flashes of the old persona Thursday night in his appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, too.

Asked about the crosstown Clippers' fate in the current NBA playoffs, Bryant said, "It doesn't really matter to me because I'm not winning, so what the hell do I care who wins?"

Bryant laughed as he finished that statement—at 35, he's much better at showing the sense of humor in the jerk these days—but he wasn't laughing when he declared actual confidence that the Lakers can win next season.

That's news to the Lakers' front office, which doesn't see anyone in free agency this summer who's w...

About the Author