Why Kobe Bryant’s Path to Title No. 6 Has Never Been a Longer Road

Kobe Bryant has been on a quest for his sixth title since concluding the 2010 playoffs, and the road has never been tougher.

Bryant celebrated his fifth championship at the end of the 2009-10 season in an epic seven-game series. The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics in the title round, and it prompted this reaction from the Purple and Gold’s superstar:

General manager Mitch Kupchak brought back the same core for the 2010-11 season, and the Lakers were favored to make it back to the NBA Finals. Instead, the Dallas Mavericks swept Los Angeles in the second round of the playoffs on their way to the title.

The ensuing season was somewhat derailed because of the lockout. The NBA season typically debuts around Halloween night, but instead labor negotiations dragged into December with the 2011-12 campaign making its debut on Christmas day.

Prior to the season tipping off, the Lakers executed a trade that would have set them up for title contention for years to come: Los Angeles acquired Chris Paul, shipped Pau Gasol to the Houston Rockets and the New Orleans Hornets received Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Lamar Odom, Goran Dragic and a 2012 draft pick Houston had obtained from the New York Knicks.

However, David Stern infamously vetoed the trade for basketball reasons, and Lamar Odom consequently refused to rejoin the Lakers because he had been included in the swap.

Thus, Odom was sent over to the Mavericks in exchange for a 2012 first-round pick. Los Angeles lost its best reserve player as well as an essential ingredient to its closing lineup. Nonetheless, the Lakers still had Bryant as well as their twin towers in Andrew Bynum and Gasol.

The Purple and Gold still had a championship core, whereas the remainder of the league was somewhat of a question mark aside from the San Antonio Spurs. The Oklahoma City Thunder were young and inexperienced, while the Mavericks...

About the Author