There have been several articles written about Kobe Bryant and the hold he has on the Lakers management and their inability to lure top talent to the team because of him. Is that really true? I have had numerous conversations with men, who have the same mindset and believe that Kobe is the driving force behind the Lakers not being able to win.
Sports analysts and people in general get great pleasure out of throwing the players under the bus for the demise of a team, when the truth of the matter is they have no control over the checkbook nor do they have any real decision making power. Yes, the superstar of the team may be asked to meet with potential teammates or asked their opinion on players but at the end of the day the decision is not up to them. That said, once these players take the floor together a dynamic may playout that does not always workout but that’s the nature of the game and it’s the responsibility of the coach to manage the personalities.
If one person is the reason for a team not being able to win, then that’s the reason for all of the losing teams around the League. One person cannot make or break a team. It is a combination of things. Let’s start by looking at the management of the Lakers organization.
Under the leadership of Dr. Jerry Buss and Jerry West the team thrived. In 2000, Jerry West left the Lakers after 40 years. Jerry West tenure with the Lakers included being a player, coach, scout and general manager. Under his reign he built a dynasty. Because of his intricate knowledge of the game on all levels he was able to build successful teams. It is very hard to replicate this kind of success when the knowledge base is not there.
Dr. Buss dies and the leadership of the organization plays out as follows:
Jeannie Buss: Executive Vice President of Business Operations, President and Co-Owner
Jimmy Buss: Assistant General Manager, Executive Vice President of Operations and Co-Owner
Mitch Kupchak: President and General Manager
Dr. Buss had six (6) children with two different wives and the two children we hear the most about are Jeannie and Jimmy. It is my understanding that the remaining four (4) other siblings have some form of control with respect to the team as well. When you have a lot of siblings, money involved and no clear direction it is a recipe for disaster.
Let’s start with Jeannie Buss, who is engaged to Phil Jackson. When Phil Jackson was hired as the Lakers coach he had been married for 26 years. He gets’ a divorce and boom he’s dating the bosses daughter. If you expect the siblings to be okay with that once Dr. Buss dies, think again. Jeannie Buss grew up around the Lakers organization and has the most experience but does she have the respect of her siblings?
Jimmy Buss has not been very successful in business. He trained thoroughbred horses for a number of years, was president of the Lakers soccer team that folded and was in business with a friend that fell apart after the friend was killed in an accident. Based on his track record, what does he bring in terms of experience to rebuilding the team? I would say NOTHING!!!
What is the relationship between Jeannie and Jimmy Buss? I want even begin to speculate about their relationship but the success of the team or the lack thereof under their leadership speaks volumes.
Mitch Kupchak officially became the general manager of the Lakers organization in 2000. He is no Jerry West and we can’t expect him to be. However, Jerry West was his mentor before he was promoted to GM so there is an expectation that his decisions over the years should have been better. Based on what’s been going on with the Lakers his decision making leaves people “shaking their heads.” One caveat to this is Jimmy Buss, who is the co-general manager and it’s unclear what role he’s playing in the decision making process. All I can say is his lack of experience speaks for itself so if he’s providing feedback on players, Lord help the team.
Now to answer the question of whether Kobe is an asset or a liability; my answer is he’s an asset. He brings experience, passion and a strong work ethic to the team. Having Kobe on the team, keeps fans in the seats. People still enjoy watching him play, regardless of whether they like him or not. It is my understanding the he’s not very tolerant of players that are not as serious as he is about the game. The truth be told no one wants to work with slackers no matter what the job is. Is it possible that his passion turns his teammates off? Of course, but the coach has to manage this. Also, Kobe is playing with men who are capable of standing up for themselves.
My recommendation to fans is to stop blaming Kobe Bryant and look at the management of the team. Albeit, there is nothing that can be done about the management of the team because it is what it is but stop placing the blame on the person with the least amount of power. I know it makes for a good sound bite to say Kobe Bryant is the reason the team is not successful but it’s just not the truth.