- Stephen Dunn/Getty
Despite trying to retool over the summer in hopes of being more competitive this season, the Los Angeles Lakers are apparently selling only one thing: Kobe Bryant.
With less than a week until the regular season begins, the Lakers are commemorating Bryant’s 20th season by plastering him all over the cover of their media guide:
The cover of the Lakers’ 2015-16 media guide is about one man: Kobe Bryant. In honor of his 20th season w/ Lakers pic.twitter.com/8k97TYfndH
— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) October 21, 2015
If you’re one of the other 16 players currently on the roster (they have to get down to 15 before the season begins), well … sorry!
The irony in this display of devotion to Kobe is that there’s no official indication that this is Kobe’s final season, which is how many, including the Lakers, have been treating it. Bryant’s contract ends after this season, and while he’s talked retiring, he’s never officially confirmed it, and nobody else around the league seems to know his plans after this season.
Furthermore, the Lakers have been trying to build a team that is both competitive enough for Kobe, but also set up to survive his potential departure in the future. In fact, some people in the NBA world think that the Lakers would be better off without Kobe, who prevents them from entering a full rebuild mode, and who also takes up $25 million in cap space and refuses to take a lesser role.
Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak has publicly insisted that Bryant is on board with the Lakers plan, but he also hinted that Bryant is bound to try to take over when he thinks he can do a better job than the rest of the team (via ESPN’s Baxter Holmes):
“I don’t think it will be any different than it has been in years past. [Bryant will] be 100 percent on board with the game plan, and he’ll be patient, as patient as he can be. But there will be a point where if things aren’t going the way that he feels they should be going or the players aren’t producing, his instincts will kick in, and I’m sure he’ll try to do as much as possible.”
So it’s odd, then, that a team that has no confirmation that Kobe is retiring is already celebrating his career.
Furthermore, when Kobe’s literally the only player on their media guide, it doesn’t exactly help sell the Lakers’ vision that they’re in a phase where the team no longer revolves around him.