Going into his 19th season, Kobe Bryant is very much on the downslope of his remarkable NBA journey. Everyone (Kobe, exempted, naturally) agrees that the Los Angeles Lakers will, at the very best, be a middling team scratching and clawing just for a shot at making the Playoffs in the brutal Western Conference next season.
Coming off two season-ending injuries, and with a whopping price tag of $48.5 million over the next two years, an anonymous general manager confirms that no team would even dream of trading for the Black Mamba (in the unlikely event that the Lakers tried to deal away their 36-year old franchise player.) Per SI:
“I hear people say, ‘They don’t have a championship team,’ ” Bryant said. “Yeah, maybe from your perspective”—and here Bryant pauses, narrows his eyes—“but (Carlos) Boozer does this, Jordan Hill does that, (Jeremy) Lin adds that. What’s the best way to put all these pieces together and use them to win? That’s the puzzle to figure out, and if we can figure out that puzzle, we’ll shock a lot of people.”
The contract, widely derided as the worst in the game, makes Bryant nearly impossible to move, even were the Lakers to try. Asked about Kobe’s value on the market, one GM answers definitively: “Zero. Look at that number. Who takes him?”
Armed with a roster of Lins and Boozers, Kobe says he’s thinking championship. And he really does buy into this stuff. “First of all, I’m sure he believes they can make the playoffs,” says one GM. “And second of all, I’m sure he believes it will be on his shoulders. That’s what makes him Kobe. That unnatural confidence.”