The team struggled to find leadership after the death of patriarch and long-time owner Jerry Buss and failed to lure free agent talent to one of the NBA’s glamour franchises.
Jeanie Buss cleaned house in 2017
Something had to change.
Team president and controlling owner Jeanie Buss, Jerry’s daughter, knew it. In the midst of a fourth straight losing season, Buss made the difficult decision of firing her brother Jim Buss from his role as executive vice president alongside long-time general manager Mitch Kupchak in 2017.
Buss hired Magic Johnson to take over basketball operations and later instilled Rob Pelinka to replace Kupchak.
None of this is news. What is news is an interesting piece of history The Athletic published on Thursday noting Bryant’s role in the 2017 Lakers overhaul.
Report: Kobe Bryant wanted LeBron James
According to Sam Amick, Bryant acted as an advisor to Buss and urged her to make the sweeping changes with one goal in mind.
Per the report:
“Cut it all out at once,” Bryant told Buss. I know it’s hard to do, but if you want to turn this ship around and turn it around sooner rather than later, then you’ve got to make those hard decisions … I know who we’re trying to get; we know who we’re trying to get, so that player is not going to come here with all of this s— going on. It’s not going to happen.
“So if you do want to have that focus, and go after that player, then I’m telling you that you’ve gotta clean house, and you’ve gotta just reshuffle the deck and start anew. …
“As a player, it’s like, listen, it’s a cultural thing. You’ve got to have the right culture around, especially for him at this stage of his career. You don’t want to come to a team and deal with a bunch of bulls—, right? You don’t want to come here and be part of an organization where the walls are talking and stuff is getting out left and right and you have this camp and that camp.”
That player the Lakers were “trying to get,” of course, was LeBron James. And get James the Lakers did.
What does Bryant’s reported role here mean?
Bryant’s reported involvement is intriguing on a couple of fronts.
Many blamed Bryant’s presence during the stark decline at the end of his career as a deterrent to the Lakers’ ability to land free agents. The now-public knowledge of his role in pushing Buss and Kupchak out the door gives him a semblance of cover in playing a perceived part in landing James.
It also provides a green light of sorts for the rabid sect of Bryant’s fanbase to accept James as member of the Lakers. That any portion of any fanbase would need to be persuaded to welcome the greatest player of his generation aboard is absurd.
But Kobestans can aptly be described as absurd and have gone to ridiculous public lengths make James feel unwelcome.
Now that his fans know that Bryant himself urged for moves to ultimately land James, will they finally embrace the next NBA great to wear purple and gold?
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