Former Lakers star Kobe Bryant has never shied away from expressing his view that any season that came short of a title was “a wasted year of (his) life,” and he has also proven incapable (at least publicly) of relating to anyone who doesn’t see things the same way.
It should be no surprise, then, that he thinks setting the goal any lower for LeBron James in his first season with the Lakers is silly, as he made clear during an appearance on the Rich Eisen Show:
“The goal is always to win championships. No matter where you go, that’s the goal. That’s his (LeBron’s) goal, that’s Rob’s goal, that’s Magic’s goal, that’s Jeanie’s goal, Rondo, all the guys. Kuzma, Lonzo, they all wanna win championships, man, so that’s what they’re gunning for.”
Bryant’s not wrong. All of those people — and please, spare me the “he didn’t mention Luke or Brandon!!!” talk, he was just naming people off the cuff — surely do want to win championships. LeBron specifically wouldn’t be wrong to think the Lakers give him a better chance to do so long term than the Cavaliers did. It doesn’t mean they’ll win the title, but the Lakers aren’t wrong to think they can.
That idea seemed to be what Bryant was getting at when Eisen followed up on whether or not James “needs” to win a championship in Los Angeles:
“Why do people always say that? They say ‘okay, you need to win.’ Then there’s this crowd of people that are like ‘Well you don’t need to win a championship.’
“Well, you’re asking me, you have to win championships. That’s why we play, that’s why we’re here, is to win championships. He wouldn’t of come here if he didn’t expect to win championships.
”To me, it’s just really simple: Wherever you play, the objective is to win championships. That’s it. End of story.”
Well, that clears up Kobe’s viewpoint, and even if it’s not necessarily a reasonable one for James and the Lakers, it’s understandable Bryant thinks that way.
Bryant wouldn’t have gotten to the peaks and mountaintops he reached without an insane level of self-confidence that left him always expecting to win titles, and thinking that anything less is a disappointment. Many athletes think that way to maintain a competitive edge and get as much out of themselves as possible.
That doesn’t mean we can’t allow for a bit more nuance. No reasonable person not employed by the Lakers should actually expect the Lakers to win a title this year, barring catastrophic injuries to the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets (and maybe even the Boston Celtics).
Don’t get me wrong: The team should absolutely set that as a goal as they look to build up their culture, but it doesn’t mean winning a title should be considered likely.
The Lakers still probably need another star to get to a championship level, barring some unforeseeable drop-off from the teams above them, so while it’s not surprising Bryant thinks the way he does, his thoughts should also be taken with the context that championships will always be his expectation.
That doesn’t mean they have to be ours, even if you can hope for them. It’s just not worth getting worked up if the Lakers don’t win a title this year, because the possibility is so far-fetched, no matter what Bryant thinks the expectations should be.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.