Such a turn of events would be a godsend for some Lakers fans, many of whom worship at the altar of Bryant. Numerous people around the NBA, however, say Bryant deciding to play beyond this upcoming season would be the Lakers’ worst nightmare. “They’ve got to get rid of Kobe,” a scout said. “You let him walk,” an agent said. “Get rid of Kobe by whatever means necessary,” an executive said.
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Many insiders doubt Bryant will take a backseat to anyone, let alone young players. “That’s why I wouldn’t want him on the team,” one executive said, “because I don’t think he’d accept that role.” “When has he ever embraced anything even close to that over the last two-to-three years?” one scout asked. “I don’t think you’re going to be able to change him to be in a role that he’s never been in.”
The fan was referencing Bryant’s No. 93 ranking in ESPN’s #NBArank project, which counts down the NBA’s top players for this upcoming season. Bryant, a five-time NBA champion and the third all-time leading scorer in NBA history, laughed when asked whether he’d heard such comments from fans defending him. “Yeah, I heard a couple of them,” he said with a smile after scoring 16 points on 5-of-11 shooting in nearly 22 minutes. “I don’t need to defend that [ranking]. Nobody does, really.”