Kobe Bryant’s Final Task with Lakers Is to Unlock Julius Randle’s Potential

This coming season will offer a symbolic beginning and end for the Los Angeles Lakers. Kobe Bryant will enter his 20th and likely final year in the league, while Julius Randle will resume his NBA career after his debut was put on a year-long delay.

Both players suffered notable injuries during the 2014-2015 campaign—Bryant had shoulder surgery after 35 games, while Randle made it through just 16 minutes in his first game before suffering a broken leg that ended his season before it ever truly began.

The closing chapters of Bryant’s magnificent career have not been what he would have hoped for—punctuated by three serious injuries in a row and further blemished by historic back-to-back losing seasons.

A fast-fading superstar would like nothing more than to go out in a blaze of championship glory.

But there are other ways to burnish a legacy as well, including passing the torch to the next generation, and in doing so, helping to unlock Randle’s considerable potential.

The hard-charging power forward from Kentucky was the Lakers’ No. 7 pick in last year’s draft. Summer league and training camp offered intriguing glimpses of his potential—a 6’9”, 250-pound freight train with surprising agility and ball-handling skills. The left-handed big was even compared to one of the key players from L.A.’s recent title years—one Lamar Odom.

Forum Blue and Gold’s Darius Soriano examined the similarities last summer:

Besides the left-handedness, Randle’s aforementioned ability to play out on the floor and take advantage of his ball handling skill is very much like LO. Add in the nice mix of passing, touch around the rim, and sneaky athleticism (though Randle seems to have even more than Odom did) and there is a good comparison to be made.

Bryant and Odom spent seven fruitful seasons tog...

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