After 16 seasons, you accept the proposition as a postulate: as Kobe Bryant goes, so do the Lakers.
So there were moments that felt like a seismic shift, not just in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals between the Lakers and the Thunder, but in The Game itself. The transition is inevitable. Even the most possessed of souls, even Kobe Bryant, must bow to time. Toward the end of the first half, Thabo Sefolosha pinned his shot on the backboard. And in the final minute of the second half, there was a sequence that saw Bryant miss twice - at 53 and 47 seconds - with the Lakers down a point.
Bryant himself was undiscouraged and undeterred. "I could finish running a marathon and I'm still thinking shoot first," he said.
But you couldn't help but think that as a witness to the beginning of an end, a succession. Kobe Bryant's time, like that of his team, has an expiration date. The Thunder, on the other hand, have a Big Three as good, or better, than any in the sport. Kevin Durant...