Secondly, I actually see this whole debacle as a good thing; a very good thing.
Bryant has all the qualifications in the world as an offensive player, and has earned several NBA All-Defensive First Team mentions (nine to be exact).
Howard, on the other hand, is a solid offensive force, but is still raw and lacks a polished post game and struggles at the free throw line. However, Howard is one of the greatest defenders of all time, and has earned three NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards.
Therefore, Bryant has the right to critique Howard on the offensive end, and even look him off if he feels that Howard won’t be able to make a solid move in the post–or if he feels that Howard will get fouled on an attempt that isn’t going to inevitably result in a dunk.
At the same time, Howard is one of few players who can critique Bryant on the defensive end. Where Bryant is an offensive juggernaut, Howard is a defensive beast. Howard has been the Lakers’ defensive anchor all season, and has pretty much called out anyone who’s missed a rotation–most visibly Pau Gasol on numerous occasions.
The most important thing here, though, is that Howard called out Kobe Bryant. Almost nobody calls out Kobe Bryant. Not teammates, and many times, not even coaches. The fact that Bryant boasts five championship rings gives him the right to tell anyone else with less rings what to do, and usually makes him immune from criticism among his teammates.
I can’t remember the last time anybody called out Bryant, to be quite honest. Maybe Derek Fisher might have pulled Bryant to the side or given him a suggestion, but I’ve never seen anybody point a finger and yell at Bryant the way Howard did.
Howard had the guts to call Bryant out about a mistake, and although Bryant initially scoffed back at him, he realized it was his mistake and likely appreciated the passion and commitment to defense and winning that Howard displayed. In that sense, Howard was doing the most respectful and humbling thing to Bryant–letting him know when he’s at fault and hurting the team.
According to Ding, this opened an avenue for open discussion, namely with Metta World Peace, who put it all into perspective:
“Dwight misses free throws. Sometimes Kobe shoots too much. I do things. The key is to stay together. Talk about it and stick together.”
That appears to be exactly what these Lakers–and especially these two superstars–are doing.
Next Page: Will This Become “Shaq & Kobe” Part II?