Kobe Bryant is not going quietly into that good night.
Sure, he’s smiling more and seemingly enjoying this season — and the accolades of his farewell tour — more than even he expected. But don’t mistake that for the embers of his competitive fire dying out, those are still burning strong.
And if D'Angelo Russell of the Lakers or anyone else wants his torch, they are going to have to pry it from his hands he told Baxter Holmes of ESPN.
“He didn’t pass the torch,” the Los Angeles Lakers icon said of his idol (Michael Jordan) Sunday following the Lakers’ 101-88 loss to the Washington Wizards at Staples Center. “Torches never get passed. You’ve got to earn that.”
So, have any of the young Lakers earned that torch?
“No,” Bryant said. “If you have to ask that question, the answer is already there. Those are things you don’t have to ask. Those things just happen.”
It’s a lot to ask of any rookie to grab the torch of Kobe, but in a couple of seasons that may change. Russell (or Julius Randle, or a future pick/player) may reach those heights, but nobody is there yet. It’s not fair to expect them to be.
But Los Angeles is a star-driven market, and the Laker fan base is one spoiled with success. The Lakers need to find that torch bearer sooner rather than later.