Kobe Bryant may have retired, but it doesn’t seem like it when talking to Los Angeles Lakers players about the upcoming season.
On Monday, the Lakers held their first media day of the 2016-2017 season, and questions about Kobe Bryant continued to pop up. Whether the media was asking players about his legacy or how the team will succeed without him, it was hard to not hear Kobe’s name every couple of minutes.
“I can sense him. He’s here,” Metta World Peace, who played with Kobe for a couple seasons in Los Angeles, told reporters. “He’s always going to be here. This is the Lakers organization and, yeah, the Mamba is still here.”
It’s not surprising to hear Kobe’s name come up as many Lakers continue to talk with him. Young forward Julius Randle told reporters he worked out with Bryant in the offseason and World Peace visited Bryant to talk about his post-NBA career earlier in the summer.
Despite many players still maintaining close relationships with Bryant, the Lakers must move on. This year is the first time since 1995 Bryant isn’t at the team’s training camp. To show crazy that is, Luke Walton, the team’s head coach, was just 15 at the time. Meanwhile, young star Julius Randle was 1 and D’Angelo Russell wasn’t alive yet.
As a result, the team must take what Kobe taught them last year, and move on without him.
“It (last year) was all about Kobe,” said Russell. “Now, it’s a different headline. It’s about the young guys and it’s about the new coaching staff. There’s so many more headlines that [the media] can talk about.”
“He deserved everything he got,” Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson said. “(This year will be) a fun year for all of us to be able to spread our wings and get out here and learn with each other and really grind.”
Without Kobe, the younger guys must rise up and take over the leadership roles vacated by Bryant. It will be interested to see how the Lakers fill those roles as most of the team doesn’t have half the experience Kobe had. Regardless, the team must move on.
“Life moves on,” Randle said. “Just because Kobe is retired, the Lakers organization is not going to stop. We’ve got to go on and got to get better.”
Time will tell if the Lakers can move on completely without Kobe. Los Angeles opens its season on October 26th at home against the Houston Rockets.