Los Angeles Lakers Must Develop Identity That Extends Beyond Kobe Bryant

For nearly two decades now, Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers have been synonymous.

But as an epic journey hastens toward its inevitable conclusion, a simple reality can no longer be ignored—the team has to develop its own sustainable identity.

Hanging on for their second win of the season against the Atlanta Hawks, the Purple and Gold took one small step in the right direction Tuesday night.

The longstanding face of the franchise led the way with 28 points. In doing so, he reached yet another of his many career milestones.

But make no mistake, breaking a four-game skid took a team effort.

Bryant’s contract extends through the end of next season—his 20th in Los Angeles. It is a remarkable span of time.

Few teams in professional sports have ever had as forceful and domineering a personality as Bryant. No team in basketball has ever had a 20-year run with one player.

John Stockton was the closet at 19 with the Utah Jazz. Tim Duncan is currently not far behind Bryant at 18 seasons with the San Antonio Spurs. And then there is Dirk Nowitzki who has embodied the Dallas Mavericks for 17 years.

But perhaps the Spurs and Duncan provide the most vivid juxtaposition to the Mamba’s narrative. San Antonio’s success has long been predicated on the sum being greater than its parts. Yet even so, they will find it hard to move on.

So how on earth can a team find its own way forward when one player so defiantly and resolutely blazes his own path for all to follow?

With two wins in 11 tries, this has been a team with a dwindling common purpose as of late, falling sullenly in line behind the league’s leading scorer. Develop an identity beyond their iconoclastic firebrand? His teammates can’t even avoid being lapped by him.

But the win against Atlanta showed that moments of shari...

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