Kobe wants a couple more of those gold balls, and he's upset that Lakers management isn't helping him in his quest.
Well, about 20 minutes after Kane posted the previous blog, I walk into my room and notice that the "Breaking News" signal at the bottom right-hand corner of the ESPNEWS screen has been activated. It reads: Kobe asks for Jerry West back or a trade. I'm shocked. I run into the living room and flip to channel 256 on Time Warner to show my grandmother; then Ric Bucher shows up on the screen and explains it all. He says that Kobe took the weight of the blame of the Shaq trade on his shoulders with the promise by Lakers management that they would build a championship team around him. He doesn't want to be traded; his wife is fond of the city and he would like to spend the rest of his career here. But they made him a promise that has not been fulfilled in the three years since they made it, and the roster has to be upgraded, and Kobe has demanded that West be brought back to do the job. At least this is what Bucher said.
I was floored by the news. Obviously, Kobe voiced his frustrations after the Lakers lossed to Phoenix in the first round of this year's playoffs. And in today's LA Times, Mike Bresnahan reported that he had a phone conversation with Bryant in which Bryant continued to express his frustration. And Bill Plaschke wrote a piece in which he states that the Lakers should trade him. But as impatient as Kobe sounded, I never imagined that he would ask for a trade. It just never crossed my mind that he really would.
The guy's been here for eleven years. He's won championships here. He's broken records here. He's played some of the most brilliant basketball anyone has ever seen here. He's become a man here. And he loves the city and it's fans.
Just not as much as he loves winning.
Initially, my reaction was, if Kobe wants to be traded, then trade him. Afterall, Allen Iverson played 10-plus years in Philly with the same problems before finally asking to be dealt. And KG has been in Minny for twelve seasons and has never demanded a trade (although he has expressed his disappointment in management on more than one occasion.) So you're telling me Kobe, who already has three 'chips, is ready to go after only three years? Come on. Quit whining.
But after listening to Bucher, my mind was changed. Ric reminded me that the real reason Shaq was traded was because Doc Buss didn't want to give him the monster extension he was looking for at 32-years old. Everyone convenienly forgot about this because they were so hell-bent on blaming Kobe. It amazes me how easily people completely ignore the facts and continue to fault Kobe for what happened. Oh, well. Anyways, Kobe took on a huge backlash from the media and fans that he didn't deserve, paying the price for something he had nothing to do with. Over the past two seasons, Kobe's played at such a high level that all most people can focus on is his transcendent ability as a basketball player; the abuse has definitely subsided. But it still lingers; that's why he's singled out by the league like he is (how can the NBA ever be taken seriously again when LeBron only gets a flagrant foul for whacking Chris Webber during Game 1 of the East Finals in the exact same way that Kobe was suspened for when he clocked Manu and Marko Jaric this season?). The point is, he carries that weight for them because he really wants to retire a Laker, and they haven't lived up to their end of the deal. Remember, Kobe could have easily gone across the hall to the Clippers and taken a lot of fans and revenue with him; if he had, the Clips probably would've won the whole damn thing last year, and they would've been contenders again this year and for years to come. But he didn't do that. He believed in them.
And by bringing back West, the legend with extensive experience in building title-worthy Lakers teams (and you know Jerry would come back in a heartbeat if it meant keeping his greatest career achievement in the purple-and-gold colors he's bled for more than forty-five years now), they would be rewarding him for his faith.