The Los Angeles Lakers are the most active team in Free Agency so far, adding Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Trevor Ariza, and Russell Westbrook to the team. Five years ago, Westbrook, LeBron, Carmelo, AD, and Dwight would have been the All-Star game starting five. But at this point, most of these guys are far from their prime, trying to get that elusive ring. If Kobe Bryant were still here, what would have been his opinion on adding former rivals to the team to win a ring?
Kobe comments on LeBron and KD’s decisions
Kobe was very generous in letting LeBron take over the Lakers after his retirement. That's one of the reasons he didn't show up to games at first - he was giving James time to establish his presence. Here’s a snippet of what Kobe had to say when asked about The Decision and Kevin Durant’s "next chapter" in Golden State.
"I'm happy for him because he seems to be happy with his decision, I'm happy for DWade for the situations that they have and Chris Bosh."
Kobe Bryant, Sportscasting.com
Bryant also said he’s happy for KD but offered a different approach if he were in Durant’s position. His situation was much different than LeBron's when he decided to go to South Beach.
"If you're a real competitor, you look at that and say, 'OK, lace 'em up. Let's go. I don't care how many players you have over there; we're still going to take you down.'”
Kobe Bryant, Spin
It’s not hard to see where Kobe was coming from. He came from a different era when he had to work to earn the respect of his rivals and win titles. However, some fans quickly pointed out that the Hall of Famer also benefitted from several superteams in his time with the Lakers.
Kobe and superstar teammates
Bryant's career started with a prime Shaq, so he didn't really need to look around the league to find a teammate good enough to win a championship with. Still, after they three-peated, the Lakers assembled the first superteam in Kobe's tenure.
In the '03/'04 season, Gary Payton and Karl Malone, far removed from glory days, tried to win another ring before hanging it up. As we know, they lost to one of the most underrated teams in recent history - the '04 Detroit Pistons. Then in '12/'13, Steve Nash went to the Lakers and teamed up with Kobe, Dwight Howard, Antawn Jamison, and Metta World Peace. On paper, the roster appeared strong enough to at least make the Finals; instead, L.A. was swept in the first round against the San Antonio Spurs. Don't forget, Chris Paul was on his way to the Lakers, but the NBA thumbed down the trade proposal. Had it pushed through, Paul and Kobe would have easily won at least a ring.
No matter what the circumstances were, Kobe stayed with the Lakers through thick and thin. He willed his team to victories and almost single-handedly push them to playoff contention. When presented with a hypothetical offer to come back from retirement if winning an NBA title is within reach, he had this to say:
“No. No. No. No. I like my rings the hard way. I like to fight through them. I don’t like to jump into the easy route.”
Kobe Bryant, Sportscasting.com
As expected of Bryant, who can be considered one of the fiercest competitors of all time, there was no way he would've chased a ring if he couldn't meaningfully contribute. He would surely show love and support for the Lakers but subtly point out he was built different. The greatest ones are.