Kobe Bryant: What Does the Lakers Star Have to Prove in 2011-12?

For a 13-time NBA All-Star, five-time NBA Champion, two-time NBA Finals MVP and the all-time Lakers leader in games played, minutes played and points scored, there's not much left for Kobe Bryant to prove.

Frankly, Kobe could easily hang up his hat and retire as perhaps the greatest Laker (Magic Johnson is certainly in the discussion) and one of the greatest players in NBA history. 

Ask Jerry West—Mr. Clutch and Lakers legend—and he'll tell you that Kobe is the greatest Laker of all time. 

There are no statistical categories Kobe needs to eclipse for basketball fans to confirm his sheer domination on the court—his spot at No. 6 on the NBA all-time scoring list illustrates that.

Nor does Kobe need to prove all over again that he's a champion—Kobe's five championships, both with and without the services of basketball legend Shaquille O'Neal, justify his championship standing.

So what else does Kobe have to prove?

I'm not buying into the argument that Kobe needs to prove it's "his league again" by stealing the spotlight away from up and coming players like Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose. Basketball should be a young man's sport and, if anything, Kobe welcomes the fresh competition and is not out to suppress it. Kobe was heard most of last year joking about his old age with reporters.

Nor does he need to prove his worth against Michael Jordan's career numbers—that's an entirely separate debate. Just being in the debate as the greatest of all time is enough. It's certainly plausible, as former players and coaches have confirmed, that privately this serves as a motivation for Bryant. But that should not be Kobe's goal coming into next season.

What Kobe must prove next year to Laker and basketball fans is his ability to carry a team. I'm not talking about his on-court contributions—his championship resume has unequivocally prov...

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