Kobe’s Latest Setback Offers Lakers Chance to Finally Move Out of His Shadow

It is not the east, and Kobe is not the sun.

As glorious as it was for the Los Angeles Lakers, the era is over. And it's now clear how much the franchise has to cease revolving around Kobe Bryant.

An actual bright side to the bad news of yet another Bryant injury setback can exist. His torn rotator cuff has to be the last straw in the Lakers' complete devotion to No. 24 and a clear signal that the future is now.

That doesn't mean abandoning their longtime superstar in what should still be a meaningful farewell next season or even having regrets over giving him the league's richest salary in his latest contract extension (two years, $48.5 million).

The Lakers needed to hold on to Bryant for reasons concerning both business and loyalty. And he did rehab back against tremendous historical indicators to become a top player again, albeit an erratic one. What's clear now is that his body isn't up to the burden anymore, and the transition needs to start now away from Bryant as the team's top priority to a secondary consideration.

It's a tough thing to do, no doubt. First, even if this injury requires another surgery on his shooting shoulder, Bryant isn't going to go down without a fight. He's going to want to go out on his terms, and the Lakers are going to be tempted to indulge him again.

It seems impossible to think that Bryant could mean even more to the organization than quantifiable championships or points, but he does. His 19 seasons with the franchise are five more than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jerry West, six more than Magic Johnson and Derek Fisher.

Bryant is a link to everything in that illustrious past because of how many paths he has crossed.

When the Lakers come home to play Sunday against the Houston Rockets, they'll be wearing the Sunday white uniform introduced to honor Chick Hearn when he died in 2002—the Sunday white uni...

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