Kobe Must Temper Ego Enough to Let Lakers Tank Next Season

Kobe Bryant remains one of the most polarizing figures in sports, because there is only the subtlest of difference in how his critics and proponents choose to define his driving force. 

His supporters love him for what they understand to be an unrelenting will to win, while his detractors bash him for what they perceive as an unrelenting will to prove people wrong at any expense. Even if his team is the one footing the bill. 

This is important to appreciate because Bryant's image will be at just as much of a crossroads next season as the Los Angeles Lakers' fate.

Should he come back from his recently suffered Achilles tendon injury with the dual intent of keeping the Lakers competitive and proving that no setback—regardless of the tender age he's currently at—is more overpowering than his will, both his image and the Lakers' future will suffer.

But should he have the presence of mind to let the Lakers tank, while he continues to proceed with his recovery from the sidelines, he will be exalted for letting the Lakers reap the kind of rewards that make patience the virtue that it is. For showing the kind of foresight that allowed Dr. Buss to pass away as a champion. 

Therefore, if the Lakers hope to wash away the hideous aftertaste that was left after one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history, Kobe Bryant must, quite literally, step aside next season.

Don't expect it to be an easy task for him, though.

Kobe prides himself on being among the dying breed of NBA players who still embrace the importance of toughness and resilience in a sport that many of its predecessors believe has gone soft—both physically and mentally.

Whereas most NBA players today are more apt to sit out a regular season game, prioritizing the preservation of their health to the relatively low stakes of the contest, one gets the sense that Kobe feels as empo...

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