Already, very few people thought the Los Angeles Lakers were legitimate NBA title contenders this season. After last night’s debacle against the OKC Thunder, even fewer believe in the team’s chances. Kobe Bryant thinks anyone who doubts his squad has mental issues. Yikes. From “Go ahead. Kobe Bryant dares you. Count the Lakers out. […] ‘Anybody who counts us out is challenged,’ Bryant said. ‘They’re mentally challenged. Am I happy with how we play every single night? Of course not. But I’m content with where we are overall and where I think we can go. Let them doubt all they want. That’s the way it always is. People talk and doubt and criticize all the way up until you win a championship, then it’s: ‘Oh, I knew it all the time.’ That’s just how it is.’ It is as much a part of the franchise DNA as the purple uniforms, the championship banners, Jack and Denzel sitting courtside. Panic and doubt have a front row seat at Staples Center, too. You can practically set your calendar by their arrival. ‘Everybody looks at us,’ Bryant said. ‘Everybody sees us. Everybody picks and criticizes everything we do. It’s easy to do so. There are a lot of things that easily are ‘critique-able’ and people are always taking the liberty do so. It reminds me of our last championship run. We were in a similar position as well. We were over the hill. We don’t have Phil. We are not coming off a championship. It’s a similar thing. It happens all the time with us, so in a way it’s comfortable. It’s something I’ve learned to live with, all the controversies over one thing or another, all the doubts. Actually, of all the championships that we won, we only really had one season where we led wire to wire. You can look it up.’ So you can. And in the five championship seasons of his career, only in the first (1999-2000) with Shaquille O’Neal did the Lakers finish with the best record (67-15) in the NBA during the regular season. In fact, they entered the playoffs that year on a 33-4 tear. The following season the Lakers went 56-26, were tied for the second-best record and went 15-7 coming down the stretch. In the 2001-02 season, the Lakers finished second behind Phoenix in the Pacific Division, had an 11-6 closing record that is identical to their pace over the past 17 games, but still won their third straight NBA title. Even in the 2008-09 season when the Lakers won 65 games, they still trailed Cleveland for the best record, but beat Orlando in The Finals. When the Lakers defended that title in 2010, they finished with the second-best record in the league (57-25), but staggered into the postseason 11-10 and then had the world setting its hair on fire when they lost two games at Oklahoma City in the first round of the playoffs.”