If the difference between a superstar and a legend is winning, then Kobe Bryant's legacy in the NBA is far from being written.
His leadership has been criticized but very few realize that, like players and coaches in the NBA, no 2 leaders are alike. It just so happens that Kobe's way isn't about talking but showing his teammates how to conquer adversity. To a certain degree and with the kind of team he has this season, that's all he should be doing.
The Lakers struggled mightily from the very start of the season. In fact, they went through everything that would have probably caused any other franchise to fold many times over. Yet, the weathered warrior looked back at his tired men and pointed up towards the icy pinnacle of the great mountain in front of them and marched forward.
Bryant's hunger to win is unquestionnable. But it has intimidated and undermined teammates in the past. Kobe does not mind it one bit as he uses that as a gauge as to which teammate proves to be a weak link.
Not Dwight Howard, though.
In an interview by LA Times' Eric Pincus, Howard revealed that Kobe's dedication to his craft and to winning a championship have rubbed off on himself since the All-Star break.
Howard admitted that part of his lack of aggressiveness earlier in the season was due to his fear of missing free-throws. He said that Kobe then instructed him to shoot a thousand free-throws in the gym not to become a better free-throw shooter, but to teach Dwight that by embracing his fear of failure, he's teaching himself to overcome it.
Too many players and superstars in the NBA today only look at winning a title in its most glorious side. They fail to acknowledge the long, dubious road to get there. As a result, they balk at the challenges that await them. They will pretend they have what it takes to win a championship but adversity does not fool anybody.
With Howard realizing now his true potential with Kobe and Steve Nash, it's no accident the Lakers now find themselves in the 8th spot in the west with 18 games still to be played until the playoffs can officially begin. That means that they still have a chance to get a higher seed if they continue to persevere as a team.
Was it foolish or was it blind confidence in Bryant when he proclaimed the Lakers will make the playoffs?
Or is it just Kobe being hungry?