The only problem with Kobe Bryant.
Kobe Bryant is currently the top scorer in the ongoing 2014-15 NBA season. The good news ends right there.
The bad parts are that he is shooting under-40 percent from the field and his Los Angeles Lakers are 5-16 with their playoff hopes all, but gone. The prime reasons for their horrible start to the season can be attributed to their lack of talent (which is pretty obvious), lackluster defense (which is the league’s worst right now) and Kobe Bryant’s “heroball”. This is not a knock on Kobe.
I am an ardent fan of him. I admire him to the core. He is my favorite basketball player. He will ever be. But he is literally hijacking possessions in the Lakers’ offense and taking low percentage shots which are sometimes comical.
It is easy to blame him for every loss that the Lakers register on their Win-Loss column as he is the team’s leader. If he is taking fewer shots and passing the ball more, people would say “Why isn’t he shooting for the team to win?” And if he is taking more shots, they would say “Well, why is he shooting so much?” It is a lose-lose situation either way. In the end, the Lakers are still losing games and have been painful to watch.
So what is the only problem with Kobe Bryant?
He always believes that he is the best basketball player in the world. Always.
He believed that when he entered the league in 1996 as a skinny 17-year old, the moment he started chasing the great Michael Jordan. He believed that when he shot 4 airballs in the waning moments of Game 5 in the 1997 NBA playoffs against the Utah Jazz. He believed that even when he was playing alongside probably the most dominant big man to ever play basketball in Shaquille O’Neal (which paved way to a bitter feud between those two).
He still believes that right now. Even at age 36 after coming off two serious career-threatening injuries – a torn ACL in April 2013 and a leg fracture in December 2013.
The problem actually is not that he still believes he is the best. The problem is that he still believes he can carry this awful Laker team on his own at age 36.
His body has gone through so many injuries (he played through so many injuries which is unbelievable), lot of wear and tear, literally tens of thousands of miles. Actually more, considering his time with the national team, Team USA. He has played more than 1400 NBA games.
The belief “I am the best basketball player” that he has imbibed in every cell of his body is both a boon and bane. It is a bane due to the aforementioned facts. It is a boon as that made him the player that he has become – a 5-time NBA champion, a 16-time all-star, an MVP and probably the most skilled basketball player ever.
To be honest, he must believe that he is the best because he puts in the necessary work. He tirelessly works on his craft. His work ethic is insane. So he believes that he is the best because he believes in his work ethic.
Kobe has that killer instinct. He is so cocky that he gave himself the nickname, ‘The Black Mamba’. It is that cocky attitude, that belief and that killer instinct which made Michael Jordan a legend. And those are the same attributes which LeBron James lacks which makes him shaky in pressure situations.
Kobe Bryant’s throne as the NBA’s best player has ended a few years ago. Sad but true. It is hard to admit that for Kobe fans. He was the best player from 2002 to 2011. Later LeBron James took over that throne. Right now, that title is a toss-up between LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
The Lakers’ offensive system which they are currently running does not have a smooth flow to it. There is a lack of ball movement and player movement which are the symptoms of a struggling basketball team.
The defense is equally bad. Kobe cannot run around the opponent’s perimeter players during defense all the time as he has to save his legs for offense, being the team’s number one scoring option. It is mostly the job of the youngsters around him who need to rotate on defense under Kobe’s defensive leadership.
To sum it up, Kobe Bryant has to understand that he is not the same physical freak he once was. This is not the Kobe Bryant who destroyed defenses thousands of times before. This is a physically fatigued Kobe Bryant who needs to believe in his teammates and encourage team basketball. It does not brighten the Lakers’ playoff chances. Those are dried up. Yes, the Lakers cannot make the playoffs this season.
But if Kobe, being the team’s leader encourages ball movement, the Lakers would become a real team, not to mention fun to watch. He can certainly do that because he always believes that there is nothing he cannot do. Ever.