Kobe Bryant is currently on his yearly tour through China for Nike. Kobe is an immensely popular, godlike figure in China so when Kobe talks, millions of the Chinese listen intently. Making good use of having the mass populations’ ear, Nike and Kobe released a promotional video where he gives his advice on how to be a leader.
Many have foolishly questioned Kobe’s leadership abilities over the years despite the fact that he’s led the Lakers to 5 championships and 7 final appearances in his 17 seasons in the NBA, so they’ll likely be plenty of eyes rolling or snarky commentary in response to the video.
I find it mind boggling that anybody could question the leadership ability of Kobe considering the triumphant results with Kobe leading the Lakers over the years.
Kobe is known to be more of a drill sergeant type leader than a nurturing kind like say a Derek Fisher. Kobe has punched a teammate, embarrassed them on the floor with demonstrative displays of disapproval; it is that style of leadership that just rubs people the wrong way and leads them to forming the incorrect assessment that Kobe lacks leadership skills.
There are different kinds of leaders, ones that take different approaches to motivate and get the best results of those that they lead. The judgment of their effectiveness should not be in the delivery but in the results; based on the results Kobe has proven to be an excellent leader.
Championships aside (with 5 of them there needs to be quite some room to place to set them to the side) Kobe has gotten the most out of his teammates, in many cases more than any other player that those teammates have played with have before.
Career high 13.6 PER in 2010-11 playing with Kobe.
Brown was almost out of the league prior to being thrown in the trade with Adam Morrison to the Lakers for the salary dump of Vladimir Radmanovic. Brown was unable to secure a role in his 3 previous stops in NBA and it wasn’t until playing along side Kobe that he was able to be effective enough to stay on the court and showcase his incredible athleticism and NBA level skills. Brown went from a player that went back and forth from the NBA to the D-League, to a 20 minute per game rotation player for an NBA championship team.
Career high 11.5 points per game and 44.7 field goal percentage in 2005-06 with Kobe.
The best example of Kobe’s leadership ability was in the transformation of the formally unknown Smush Parker. Smush was horribly ineffective, warming the bench with 3 different NBA teams in 2 seasons and even had a stint playing overseas before landing in purple and gold in 2005. Along side Kobe, Smush magically became a serviceable staring guard in the NBA.
Coming off a season where he averaged a paltry 3 points per game, Smush production spiked to a career high 11.5 points per game in the 2005-06 season, his first with the Lakers. He followed that up with 11 points per game the following season. Looking at Smush’s career numbers, the big spike in his production was soley in the years that he laced up sneakers in the same locker room as Kobe. Without Kobe, Smush lasted just 1 more season in the league before being exiled.
Career high 53 field goal percentage and won the 6th man of the year in 2010-11 with Kobe.
Odom was already an established player in the league when being part of the Shaquille O’ Neal trade that sent him from Miami to Los Angeles. Odom also had experience playing with a dynamic, superstar guard having played with Dwayne Wade, but it was his years with the Lakers and Kobe where he experienced his most success. Odom’s 7 highest field goal percentage seasons and 6 of 7 of his highest rebounding seasons were playing with Kobe. Odom’s career peaked in his time with Kobe and took an immediate dive when leaving in 2011.
Named to Western Conference All Star in 2009, 2010 and 2011 with Kobe.
As the focal point in Memphis, Gasol failed miserably in that role. The Gasol led Memphis Grizzlies were swept in 3 straight first round series and missed the playoffs entirely the season before being traded to the Lakers in 2008.
In Gasol’s new role as the #2 guy next to Kobe, Gasol flourished. Gasol polished post game and superb passing skills worked perfectly with the dynamic and aggressive perimeter offensive skills of Kobe. 4 of Gasol’s 5 highest seasons shooting from the field were in a Lakers uniform, with his career high of 56.7 percent coming in the 2008-09 season. Gasol made 1 All Star appearance in his first 6 full seasons in Memphis; he was name to the All Star team in 3 straight seasons with the Lakers.
Gasol’s vast improvement as a player when paired with Kobe is not so noticeable in his statistics as he took a lesser role with the Lakers. It is more an attitude of a winner and mental fortitude that rubbed off on Gasol from Kobe.
If Kobe’s lacks leadership skills like many say, then why do players perform optimally when playing with him? Why have so many players’ careers been resuscitated with Kobe?
Why do players achieve feats and accolades that they never have before until running with Kobe? Why do the Lakers as a team achieve such great results with Kobe as their captain?
Isn’t great leadership determined by the results not the approach?
That’s a rhetorical question, of course it is. Therefore, Kobe is a masterful leader with the empirical proof to back that up.
You can reach me at the my Twitter handle, @fullcourtfern, to discuss this article, anything Lakers or NBA related, or if you want to invite me to go grab a beer somewhere in L.A. You’re paying of course.
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