Kobe Bryant has now become A Guy Who Says Things, and this summer has been no different. The former Los Angeles Lakers star has already plastered himself onto headlines by talking about his former teammate Shaquille O’Neal.
But now Bryant has gone after current NBA players.
Speaking in an interview with Valuetainment TV, Bryant criticized the use of load management in today’s NBA. In typical Kobe form, it was unhinged from the reality of modern basketball and a naked attempt at levering his own legacy above that of his modern peers.
Of course, that’s not how any of this works. The NBA has a duty to make as much money as it can, that includes managing both players and their longevity versus the night-to-night grind of an 82 game regular season.
It’s true that Kobe didn’t miss that many regular season games over the course of his career, but it’s that anecdotal exceptionalism that allows successful players to believe that their way is the only way.
Players are being targeted younger and younger these days, and as was posited in a feature by Baxter Holmes earlier this year, the result is a potential for increased injury given the amount of miles on the joints and ligaments of incoming NBA prospects.
Intellectually, Bryant knows this. In fact, Kobe knows the exact reason why players want to be a part of load management in first place — the regular season doesn’t matter, and when it comes to galvanizing individual legacy, it’s all about the playoffs. Bryant, the most active legacy manipulator of our time, understands this fully.
But it’s also useful to Kobe’s legacy to paint himself as the kind of maniacal, sociopathic competitor that would stop at nothing to win, a la Michael Jordan. That includes trying to act as though he was present and at 100% for every possession, and that everyone else must do so in order to achieve greatness as well.
This is patently false, of course. Kawhi Leonard quite literally just won the NBA championship while under heavy load management for the entirety of the season for the Toronto Raptors. He will probably be under the same system as the championship-favored Los Angeles Clippers get underway this season, too.
And yet, Kobe keeps talking. He does so as a means to continue selling snake-themed shoes until the memory of his real impact on the NBA is long gone, replaced with whatever the public has accepted as part of the Kobe canon.
Meanwhile, until the NBA finds some way to limit the number of games without losing revenue, load management is here to stay. No doubt Kobe complaining about it will be as well.