Los Angeles Lakers Entering Biggest Offseason of Kobe Bryant Era

Almost two decades into a triumphant alliance that has survived stubbornness, egos, heartbreak, age and even death, the Los Angeles Lakers and Kobe Bryant face a summer mired in uncertainty and disquiet they've never encountered before.

Nearly 10 years ago, after three NBA championships and in the wake of unbending self-pride and discordant personalities, Los Angeles dissolved a toxic Shaquille O'Neal-Bryant partnership by trading the former to the Miami Heat ahead of the 2004-05 campaign.

This upcoming offseason is bigger than that divorce.

Roughly seven years ago, after two consecutive first-round playoff eliminations, the Lakers almost dealt an enraged, anxiety-ridden Bryant to the Detroit Pistons, before an 11th-hour meeting with the late Dr. Jerry Buss salvaged a quickly deteriorating situation, per Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski.  

This summer will be bigger than that moment was, bigger than it ever could have been. 

In all their time together, Bryant and the Lakers have yet to travel down this road, where one wrong turn can stain and overshadow five NBA titles and 18 years of mostly fond memories. 


Understanding One Another

Even now, the Lakers and Bryant are still trying to understand one another.

The two parties have disagreed plenty of times before. Shaq, Phil Jackson, Dwight Howard and collective expectations have been sore spots over the years. But this is the first time their paths, intertwined for so long, appear to be traveling in completely opposite directions.

Disconnects between players and teams are natural, especially in marriages with the longevity of this one. Players age. Teams start thinking about the future.

People move on.

Bryant and the Lakers looked like they may avoid this instinctive divide at first. The Black Mamba signed a two-year, $48.5 million exte...

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