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Why the hype around Kobe Bryant's 2014 ESPN Player ranking is unnecessary

Yash Matange
Modified 20 Dec 2019, 04:33 IST
Kobe Bryant’s ESPN ranking has nothing to debate about, it is merely a prediction based on last season.

Player ranking of Kobe

Every year in October as the countdown to the start of the NBA season winds down, releases their predictions for the Top 500 players in the upcoming season. Here is how the rankings are panel of experts are asked to rate every player on a scale of 1 to 10 the overall level of play they expect from each player for the upcoming season. 

Before last season, Los Angeles Lakers were placed 12th in the team ranking, but the one rank that made a lot of noise was the 25th in the Players Rankings because it was Kobe Bryant and if 25th wasn’t low enough, prior to the start of this season he was predicted at 40th.

It was hard to argue with the Bryant fans whose frustration was falling on deaf ears. “How could you??? He is a five time NBA Champion and an all-time great!!!” were the common arguments made by fans and supporters. Unlike his fans Bryant took a calmer yet very straight forward stance on the prediction.

“I’ve known for a long time they’re a bunch of idiots. Honestly, all jokes aside, it really doesn’t bother me too much,” he said. “I’m going to do what I do regardless. And God willing I can stay healthy and if I wind up proving a lot of people wrong in the process that will just wind up being collateral damage.”-Kobe Bryant.

A huge fan of Bryant myself I decided to look into the matter and find out what the basis for these rankings were and then it hit me. The predicted rankings Bryant has been given in both instances were actually very generous predictions made by the panel.

As mentioned earlier they were predictions for the upcoming season which depend on various factors such as the performance in the previous season and the off-season as well. So taking the basis into consideration, the chatter and hype regarding Bryant’s ranking is completely unnecessary. Here’s why:

Bryant was actually ranked higher

Bryant shooting free throws in pain after tearing his left Achilles against the Golden State Warriors in April 2013.

When he was ranked 25th many believed this was definitely a mistake made. The fans and many others across the country felt there is more to Bryant than being just 25th best in the league. As bitter as the truth might sound, they were actually right in making that prediction.

In the NBA, Chauncey Billups and Elton Brand were the last two players who tore their Achilles, an injury Bryant was returning from last season. Despite a successful recovery, there was a clear and significant dip not only in minutes played, but also in the effectiveness on the floor.


From the point of view of a die-hard Bryant fan, it would be very tough to digest that there are 39 players in the league currently that are better than him. Looking at his stats from his last season where he played only six games, it will be hard to try putting Bryant even in the Top 100 players of last season, let alone 25th which was the rank ESPN predicted him to be. 

It is important to realize that the panel had actually given some points to the drive and motivation that Bryant has for the game, something many have said the panel didn’t take into account. Otherwise there is no way a 34 year old player returning from a torn Achilles in his left leg will be in the Top 25 players in the league.

Ranking has no relation to legacy

Kobe’s predicted rank by ESPN has aboslutely nothing to do with his legacy.

Steve Nash, Kevin Garnett, Vince Carter and Ray Allen were all outside the Top 100 in ESPN’s rankings, but nobody batted an eye, does this mean they are not all time greats? Definitely not. These predictions have nothing to do with the legacy or the past career of a player.

If the rankings were based on legacy, I doubt the ESPN panel would not have put all of the above names in the Top 100. Emphasizing the importance of no-relation between the rankings and legacy is extremely crucial to prevent further silly back and forth in the media. The reason I believe ESPN had him at 25 last season or at 40 for this season was because of the age at which he was returning from the injuries. Currently aged 36, Bryant is returning from back to back injuries after almost 18 months of no court action.

So here’s some advice from one Bryant fan to all out there, this rank is a prediction made by a panel of experts who have studied the game enough to know the challenges every player may face or the success’ other players might taste in the upcoming season. It has nothing to do with the legacy of a player thus no reason to go back and forth about the rank of a player which is nothing but a prediction for next season.  

Published 21 Oct 2014, 11:20 IST
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