Kobe Bryant may have only played in six games this season, but the NBA star has been anything but invisible as he transitions into the latter portion of his career. The Lakers guard has been speaking his mind over the last few days, giving his opinion on the Lakers' fortunes and blasting the owner of their hometown rivals, the LA Clippers.
Kobe popped up this weekend on CNBC to discuss BodyArmor, a sports drink in which Bryant has invested between $4 and $6 million. In the course of the interview, Bryant talked about his desire to expand into the world of business as his pro basketball career draws to a close, but he also gave his opinion on the Los Angeles Lakers organization, which has underperformed considerably over the past few years.
"It's a tough period," Kobe told CNBC's Kelly Evans and Bill Griffeth on "ClosingBell." "You're talking about one of the greatest owners, if not the greatest owner of all time in any sport and so it's a tough act to follow."
Bryant was referring to the apparent difficulties facing Laker management following the death of team owner Jerry Buss last year. Kobe and the team are now in the hands of Buss' children, and fans and commentators have been less than impressed with the way the Buss offspring are handling things. Kobe, though, believes the organization can pull through.
"So now you have the adjustment period where you have to figure out, you know, what the leadership style is going to be going forward; what our culture is going to be going forward and that takes a little time," Bryant said, adding, "but we'll get there, though."
Alongside Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe and the Lakers won three championships in a row in the early 2000s, and Shaq, Kobe, and crew remained a powerhouse in the NBA's Western Conference throughout the decade. Following Shaq's departure, Kobe's Lakers entered a bit of a doldrum, missing the playoffs one year and exiting unceremoniously in others until center Andrew Bynum came into his own and the Lakers traded for Pau Gasol. That pairing gave Kobe – who had been considering leaving the team – the low-post presence he needed to lead the team to another two championships.
When Kobe was flirting with the idea of heading away, the Los Angeles Clippers were apparently a serious possible destination for Bryant. With the Clippers now the focus of no small amount of controversy over some remarkably racist statements allegedly made by team owner Donald Sterling, Bryant weighed in on that topic as well.
"I couldn't play for him," Bryant tweeted on Saturday, apparently speaking of Sterling, who drew criticism from within and without the NBA for apparently berating his paramour for appearing in Instagram photos with African-Americans.
Kobe's latest tweet is a far different song from the one he was singing back before the Lakers improved. In the mid-2000s, Bryant was distraught with the direction of the team and continually dangled the Clippers as a potential landing spot were he to leave the Lake Show.
"I could see myself playing for the Clippers," Kobe said at the time.
The phrasing of Bryant's tweet raises something of a question: is Kobe saying he couldn't as a player now work for Sterling, knowing Sterling's proclivities, or is he saying that he chose the Lakers over the Clippers because he learned of Sterling's opinions and couldn't play for such a man then? Bryant is unlikely to expand on what he meant, as Kobe is more concerned with making sure the Lakers don't embarrass themselves next season like they did this season.
[Image Via Bing]