Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant responded Tuesday to a ESPN The Magazine article that characterized him as a major factor in the franchise’s struggles in recent years. The comments were Bryant’s first since the article was published on Monday, ESPN reports.
“It’s not the first [critical article] and it won’t be the last one,” Bryant told reporters after the Lakers’ preseason loss to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday. “One thing I’ve come to understand over the years is that you’ll have a bad story that comes out on a Monday and it seems like it’s the end of the world and it seems like everybody’s taking shots at you. But times goes by and then you look back on it and it was just a Monday.”
“[I stay] focused on the bigger picture and things are never as bleak as they seem at the time,” Bryant added. “I just kind of roll with it.”
Written by ESPN The Magazine’s Henry Abbott, the story identified Bryant as “arguably the greatest player” in Lakers franchise history, but claimed that he is “also destroying [the team] from within.” Abbott asserted that Bryant’s attitude was a key factor in driving talented teammates like Shaquille O’Neal, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol to leave the Lakers, and that it has made it difficult for Lakers officials to convince other free agents to come to Los Angeles.
“I’ve had a lot of clients in the last five years, good players, who didn’t want to play with Kobe,” one agent told Abbott. “They see that his teammates become the chronic public whipping boys. Anyone who could possibly challenge Kobe for the spotlight ends up becoming a pincushion for the media. Even Shaq.”
“Kobe is like the big rock in their front yard,” another agent reportedly said. “You can’t mow over it, so you just have to mow around it.”
The Lakers’ team-winning percentage has declined every year since future Hall of Fame Head Coach Phil Jackson left the franchise after the 2010-11 NBA season. The franchise’s fortunes reached a low point during the 2013-14 season, when they recorded a 27-55 record and missed the playoffs entirely.
The normally durable Bryant played in just six games all season due to injuries to his knee and Achilles tendon. Despite health concerns, the Lakers signed him to a two-year, $48.5 million contract extension last November.