Kobe Bryant, the pragmatist

With an eye on his legacy, the Laker embraces his role as elder statesman

Updated: July 13, 2012, 7:08 PM ET
By Ramona Shelburne | ESPNLosAngeles.com

LAS VEGAS -- It wasn't all that long ago Kobe Bryant would have angrily swatted away any question about how and when his career would end.

On a good day, he'd come back with disdainful sarcasm. On a bad one, you'd get a sneer, then the iciest of silences.

Mortality has never been a comfortable subject.

But now, at a moment when many feared he would begin a descent into an ugly cycle of rage and regret, Kobe Bryant seems to have gathered himself and decided on the persona ...

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