Kobe Bryant is not interested in making friends. He’s trying to make history. Dwight Howard, on the other hand, is trying to make sure he stays healthy and gets paid.
Both desires are understandable. However Bryant’s recent pleas for Howard to suck it up and play through the pain of an injured shoulder have created more of that patented Lake Show drama.
Kobe’s Hall of Fame career is nearing its end and there are only so many more chances for him to pull even with or surpass Michael Jordan in ring count. No matter how improbable a title run might be this year the Lakers need a ticket to the dance if they want to roll those dice. Without Howard Kobe knows those odds go from long to off the board all together.
As for Howard he’s thinking long term having already been though one near career ending injury. The last thing he needs is another summer of surgery and rehab especially when it’s a contract year. Still, if Howard wants to be known as a champion he’s going to have to sacrifice something.
What makes this situation so delicate is that Bryant knows only one way to go about his business. He’s played with a finger that needed surgery, an ankle that needed rest, a knee that needed a procedure performed only in Germany, various illnesses, a court case and any number of bumps, bruises, scars and for good measure a shoulder condition similar to Howard’s.
Simply put Bryant’s not trying to hear excuses. He’s trying to hear Howard’s name called when the starting lineups are announced.
Howard’s toughness had never really been questioned until he arrived in Los Angeles. Of course he’s never been professionally challenged either. Whether it’s Kobe calling him out for his play or pain tolerance it’s all new to D12.
For his entire career Howard has been living in a bubble. He attended a private school in Atlanta that had an enrollment less than that of a freshman biology class at USC. He played in Orlando where the media scrutiny was limited to one beat writer for a paper whose circulation was less than that of a periodical published in the Inland Empire.
Playing in L.A. has exposed Howard to the reality of big market basketball and thus far he’s failed his crash course in Media 101.
You would never catch Kobe claiming the media has “humiliated” him as Howard told Stephen A. Smith earlier this week. Bryant could care less whereas Howard is far too concerned with his image.
What Howard fails to understand is winning cures all. If you go out and get the job done then the hate will subside (see LeBron James).
What else Howard doesn’t seem to understand is Bryant didn’t get to where he was by being friendly and taking nights off when his body tells him otherwise. That’s not to say Howard is milking his shoulder injury. Though it should be noted when he hurt it in Phoenix last week only Steve Nash came to his aide while Kobe and Pau Gasol simply walked away.
If indeed Howard is thinking about his long term health that is understandable. This season is likely a lost cause but you could never convince Kobe of that. If KB24 has a pulse he’s going to compete and he expects that of every man that takes the court with him. Fair or unfair that’s a trait common amongst all legends in the game.
Whether Howard likes it or not Kobe’s drive is what gives him his edge. It might not be friendly nor is it conducive to remaining healthy for the long haul but the results are undeniable.