Kobe Bryant is not the same superstar that could carry a team by scoring 40 points over a 10- or 12-game stretch. Father Time is slowly starting to catch up to him, as evidenced by the third-lowest shooting percentage (43%) of his 16-year career. Sure, he is playing with torn ligaments in his wrist and an injured pinky (it still hasn’t been “fixed”), but the NBA’s leading scorer won’t use that as an excuse.
However, in this era where a two-time league MVP is passing up key shots down the stretch in the fourth quarter, 33-year-old Kobe is STILL the best closer in the game. Let me cite a few games to support that claim.
On March 31, Kobe was 0-for-15 for three quarters against the New Orleans Hornets, but stepped up when it mattered most. In the fourth quarter, he sank three of his six attempts and made the go-ahead 3-pointer to secure the win for the Lakers. The next game he scored 40 against the Warriors, then followed that by hitting a huge 3-ball to nail down a win against the New Jersey Nets. Those are just the most recent examples.
In his last four games, Kobe has made 56.6% of his field goals, breaking out of a horrible shooting slump in which he shot just 30% in five games.
Does he shoot the ball too much at times, rather than utilize the best 1-2 center-power forward combo in the NBA? This may come as shock to people I know on a certain social media sports Web sites, but YES, he does shoot the ball a little too often. But the thing we need to understand about Kobe is he is not like you and I, or anyone else for that matter. He is an all-time great player who at times tries to will his team to a win. The best way to express it is by simplifying it:
“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
“Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, and others make it happen.”
These were the words of Michael Jordan, who is commonly thought of to be the best player ever to play the game of basketball.
Now, I am not going to say Kobe is the next MJ, but he is the CLOSEST player to be considered in the Michael Jordan category. His determination, his competitiveness, his drive, and his ability to play through pain and illness are Jordan-like.
There’s a new commercial out with Phil Jackson talking about how Jordan played through a terrible flu and how the team had to help him back to the locker room after the game. That’s what winners do. They don’t make excuses and they don’t take games off. They play to win. Isn’t that all that matters?
Darren Jacks is a contributor to OneManFastBreak.net. Send him an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.