This could be the most watchable awful team in NBA history. They’d have ranked higher, if not for a local broadcast team that makes it seem as if every single shot — and especially every Kobe chuck — is a MASSIVELY IMPORTANT PART OF AN EPIC TALE THE BARDS WILL SING FOR CENTURIES. Close your eyes, listen to Bill Macdonald narrate a random L.A. loss, and you might think Kobe was leading the Lakers into battle against the Celtics in Game 7. If Kobe throws two straight passes that indicate a basic understanding of basketball, brace yourselves for high-pitched proclamations about FACILITATOR MODE.
Kobe’s fight against time, and his refusal to acknowledge what it has done to his game, is great theater. He has resisted the step down from star to role player, but the Lakers have enough ball handlers now — Jordan Clarkson, D’Angelo Russell, Lou Williams, the rising Julius Randle — that Kobe should feel comfortable dialing back his usage. But there will be games when Kobe loses patience with the kiddos, when every teammate seems as soft as Charmin, and he reaches down for the pivots, spins, and fadeaways that were once unguardable. Those shots rarely go in anymore, and they require more and more arc as Kobe’s hops expire. They stand against every trend of the post-2010 NBA. Still, they carry a potent nostalgia.
Also potent is the Lakers’ unmatched collection of unintentional comedy fodder: Williams, Kobe, and Nick Young sharing one ball; Young doing literally anything; Ryan Kelly’s hair; Metta World Peace and Marcelo Huertas being here for some reason; Robert Sacre’s bench antics; the inevitable blank stare from Roy Hibbert when Kobe screams at him; fans slowly realizing Clarkson is about to become a free agent even though the team had the leverage and cap room to push for a longer deal; and Byron Scott, dead man walking.