Interesting will be the last few years of Kobe’s career.
The other night, I became perhaps the last person on Earth to watch the 1972 cult-classic mafia flick The Godfather. I found the movie entertaining and it took a while for me to digest it. Over the last few days, I’ve replayed various scenes of the film in my head. Through all of that, I discovered the movie’s parallel to the NBA world.
One of the main characters is Michael Corleone. The character spent much of his life around a successful business (the Corleone Mafia Family), lived to see the death of the man in charge of the business (his father Vito) and eventually gained more power in the business.
The persona of Michael reminded me of the professional career of Kobe Bryant. Kobe has spent much of his life around a successful business (the Los Angeles Lakers), lived to see the death of the man in charge of the business (long-time majority owner Jerry Buss) and eventually gained more power in the business.
Kobe has had a legendary career and the entirety of it has been with an equal legendary franchise in the Lakers. For decades, the team has been able to make things happen left and right (much like the Corleones). If the Lakers wanted a championship, it was easy for them to get. If the Lakers wanted a star player all it took was a free agency signing or a quick trade. It was as simple as that.
It’s not as simple any more.
Since Buss’ health began to decline some time ago, the Lakers haven’t quite had the same mystique or leverage they’ve generally had over the years.
The most recent example is their near-empty outing in free agency. They were unable to convince Pau Gasol to stick around and he fled to the Chicago Bulls. Other available players such as Luol Deng and Kyle Lowry decided to sign elsewhere.
LeBron James was never a serious option.
The Lakers did, however, have a shot at Carmelo Anthony. Two weeks ago, they sat down with him in LA and tried to persuade him to sign. But the roughly three-hour meeting wasn’t strong enough to close the deal and Anthony decided to remain with the New York Knicks.
You imagine that the old Lakers would have been able to sway Carmelo into suiting up for the purple and gold, but maybe peers just don’t see the power in the Lakers anymore.
Maybe the meeting went a similar way of Michael Corleone’s meeting with Moe Green.
Moe Green was a casino owner with mob ties. Michael and a few of his partners flew to Las Vegas and expressed interest in buying out Moe for the casino. Moe was insulted by the offer and belittled the current state of the Corleone’s authority.
“First of all, you’re all done,” said Moe in a rage. “The Corleones don’t even have that kind of muscle anymore.”
Much like the Corleone Family, the Lakers lack the respect and the pull they had in the past. Free agents like Carmelo just aren’t moved by the idea of playing for the team and don’t find it difficult turning them down.
This is who the Lakers are now. The front office just can’t quite make the magic happen like the franchise could when Buss was running the show.
There was a time when all Kobe had to worry about was playing basketball. He wasn’t involved with the basketball operations aspect of the Lakers since those around him got the job done in a major way. But as management has grown weaker over the last few years, he’s taken a more prominent role in making sure everything is being handled the right way.
Much like Michael.
It was never meant for Michael to get involved with the crime aspect of the Corleone Family. But business was slipping and he realized that he had to take things into his own hands.
Kobe is constantly vocal to the media about things he wants to see the front office do. He’s not afraid to voice his displeasure in the transactions they make. Many stars across the league have some kind of say in roster moves, but it feels like Kobe has a legitimate role in the Lakers’ office room.
Despite this, the Lakers have not had a tremendous off-season. Drafting Julius Randle has been the highlight thus far. Other than that, Los Angeles re-signed the likes of Wesley Johnson, Nick Young, Jordan Hill and Xavier Henry. None of them where true difference makers last year. They also brought in Ed Davis in an underwhelming signing. The most interesting move has been picking up an aging Carlos Boozer off of waivers after the Bulls severed ties with him.
Those players along with a recovering Kobe, a constantly-trying-to-stay-healthy and archaic Steve Nash as well as Robert Sacre, don’t appear to be playoff material.
However, Kobe is on record saying “I can sit here and tell you with 100 percent honesty that I’m happy with the effort the organization put forward this summer.”
Anyone with familiarity with the NBA and understanding of the kind of moves the Lakers have made this summer cannot take Kobe seriously with this statement. Knowing Kobe’s competitive nature and experience with capable rosters, this statement smells like a bold-faced lie.
It is reminiscent of the final scene in The Godfather. In it, Michael looks his wife Kay in the eyes and assures her that he he had nothing to do with the death of his sister’s husband. But in reality, he organized his brother-in-law’s murder.
Both Kobe and Michael kept the truth away from outsiders to keep the name of their organizations clean. They know to leave most issues among their associates so everything continues to run solid.
The conclusion to The Godfather has a triumphant feel to it. The Corleones had all of their enemies killed off, and they appeared to be poised for for a successful new era as Michael seized total control of the reins.
But I’m not so sure the Lakers are headed in that same direction. They’ll be lucky if they even sniff the 8th seed in the tough Western Conference this coming season with the team as it’s assembled. Kobe’s reign is on it’s last legs as opposed to Michael’s whose was just truly beginning.
The Laker’s parallels to The Godfather seem to be different in the most important of factors: a victorious ending.
This is the initial piece on TSF by Nigel Broadnax. Follow @BroadnaxWrites on twitter. Welcome to The Starting Five fam Nigel! – Michael Tillery.