Kobe Bryant revealed to Philadelphia sports pundit Steven Smith on Wednesday morning that he wants out of L.A.
"I want to be traded," Bryant said bluntly.
Finally, in an afternoon interview with LAC radio, Kobe backpedaled completely, saying that, after an emotional discussion with Lakers Coach Phil Jackson, he did not want to leave L.A., and as a lifelong Laker fan, they were "his team."
So why the mixed signals? Maybe this is just a publicity stunt to gain leverage; to gauge his value and let management know that he's the one running the Lakers.
Kobe's frustration is rooted in the Lakers' first-round playoff exit and slim prospects for the upcoming season, but the firestorm was set off by the L.A. Times report quoting an anonymous source with Lakers stating that Kobe had forced Shaquille O'Neal out of LakerLand two seasons ago. And the rumors begin anew.
Basically, Kobe is a lot like my girlfriend. Things might not be perfect at home, and she could definitely leave me to find a better man, but she manages to overlook my flaws because she loves me and knows we have a future together. It's only once I start drinking and running my mouth that people start talking behind her back and the questions begin to come up: Have you been telling me the truth? Where is this relationship going? I thought you loved me!
And now? The marriage might be over. The ticking time-bomb has gone off, and the shockwaves were felt across the NBA, as every GM and analyst and sportswriter and blogger available offered their favorite Kobe trade scenario, no matter how atrocious. Of course, as in all good marriages, cooler heads will prevail.
Kobe will not be traded.
Jerry Buss has already committed to building around him, his coach begged him to stay, and while he's reviled in most cities, L.A. (consider the influence of this city; this is Hollywood) loves him unconditionally. Kobe's talent, experience and desire make him appealing to every GM, but his autonomy in dictating his own future limits the trade possibilities. By moving anywhere else, Bryant would relinquish the glamour of Tinseltown, and more importantly, his legacy as a Laker.
Undoubtedly, Wednesday afternoon was an interesting one. The buzz and unbridled conjecture in NBA circles was testament to Bryant's elite status as the NBA's most potent offensive threat. Alas, all of the the speculation was just ripples in the ocean--caused by the splashing of the league's most enigmatic and polarizing personality. Someone give that man a hug.