Los Angeles Lakers’ Future Still Rests in Kobe Bryant’s Hands

Kobe Bryant's present with the Los Angeles Lakers is littered with question marks, and his future with the franchise might be better measured in months instead of years.

But his position within the organization is the same one he's held the majority of his career. He is the Lakers' most important player for today and tomorrow. That fact is somehow equal parts entirely predictable and incredibly astounding.

On one hand, Bryant is a historically prolific player with a resume and competitive edge nearly unrivaled by his NBA brethren past and present. He is a 16-time All-Star, five-time champion and the fourth-highest scorer in league history (31,700 career points and counting).

He isn't passing the baton to anyone. Someone will have to rip it away from him.

That isn't news to those who have watched a second of his career, but it's remarkable nonetheless. He turns 36 on Saturday and has dealt with both a torn Achilles and a fracture of the lateral tibial plateau in his left knee since April 2013, but he's unquestionably a franchise leader in a young man's game.

As someone who once jumped straight from the high school ranks to the big leagues, his basketball clock is ticking even faster than his biological one.

Across his first 18 seasons in the league, he has logged 45,567 minutes across 1,245 games. Those totals don't even account for the extensive playoff runs that put another 220 games and 8,641 minutes on his odometer.

There is no way to roll back the mileage. Anything taken by Father Time over the years—explosiveness, agility, quickness—is a casualty of the same war legends have been waging and losing for decades.

Bryant is evolving, doing what he can to offset his physical losses with mental and tactical gains. He isn't the same player he once was, but he says it's wrong to assume he'll automatically be worse for the wear.


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