Is the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant really unrivaled?

A sneak-peek at tomorrow’s story today …

Kobe Bryant simply couldn’t say which player he considered to be his biggest individual rival. Is it Dwyane Wade? No, he’s too young. LeBron James? No, he hasn’t won a championship yet. Tim Duncan? No, that’s a grudge match for someone else.

Bryant judges everything by championship rings, and by his reckoning there’s no one in his league at the moment. Bryant has won five titles with the Lakers, and he’s trying for a sixth to match the number Michael Jordan won with the Chicago Bulls.

So, when Bryant and the Lakers play host to Wade, James and the Miami Heat on Sunday afternoon, it looms as just another game Bryant and the Lakers would like to win in order to improve their record and continue their climb in the standings.

“It will be a good measuring stick for us, to see how much we’ve grown,” Bryant said after scoring 38 points in the Lakers’ victory Friday over the Sacramento Kings, his second game since suffering a broken nose, a concussion and a sore neck.

“The big test is (today). It will be interesting to see how we respond.”

Bryant sat out of Saturday’s practice in order to have his sore neck treated and he wasn’t available for further comment. He is expected to play in Sunday’s game against Miami and probably will wear his protective mask for a third straight game.

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