A lot of us have tried to repress the memory of Michael Jordan in a Wizard’s uniform — he still had the fire and the footwork, but he was reduced to a volume scorer with not much around him, still packing the house but only because of who he used to be not who he was anymore.
Does that sound like Kobe Bryant this season?
Kobe leads the NBA scoring at 27.6 points a game, but he’s shooting just 40.2 percent (.488 true shooting percentage, well below the league average). He’s got great footwork and his game IQ is as good as ever, but he can only do so much. Before you say “he’s just a ball hog” think about if you really want to see more of Carlos Boozer, Jordan Hill and Wesley Johnson taking shots. Like Dwayne Johnson as Hercules, nobody should pay to see that.
Does that mean Kobe Bryant now equals Jordan with the Wizards?
Not exactly, but Byron Scott and Kobe himself can kind of see it, as reported by my man Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.
The 36-year-old Bryant first laughed when asked if there were similarities.
“No. Not really,” Bryant said. “Well maybe. I guess…
“He wasn’t in Chicago, playing for the same organization for all those years. It’s a little different. I’m still younger than he was,” Bryant said. “I can see where you guys are thinking there’s similarities there. I also think it’s probably reachable content at this point. I get it. So, yeah, there’s similarities. Then there are differences. Just have at it.”
“There’s some parallel to it,” Lakers coach Byron Scott told this newspaper. “Kobe didn’t retire or come back. But he’s coming off an injury and coming off of retirement. Michael played with the Wizards. That wasn’t the Chicago Bulls, a team he wasn’t used to playing with. Kobe’s still with the Lakers, but playing with a group of guys that aren’t like the group he’s been accustomed to playing with. There are some parallels.”
Does that mean in a decade we’ll be trying to block these couple final years of Kobe out of our minds?
No. Or at least not completely. Because there is a little truth in what his “Kobe can do no wrong” cult of fans say about his season — this comeback will fit into his legendary toughness legacy. It fits his storyline he (and his marketing team) like to spin. The man blew out his Achilles and his knee then came back at age 36 to be one of the top scorers in the league. That’s not nothing, and this comeback isn’t all ego trip. This does not tarnish Kobe’s legacy. He’s still next in line to get a statue outside Staples Center.
He’s going to get frustrated with the losing, more and more frustrated, but the Lakers are not going to trade him. That speculation ignores basic realities — he doesn’t want to go, he means too much to the Lakers financially to let him go, and finally even if the Lakers and Kobe came around to the idea you can’t move that massive contract onto another contender. What, you think you can just slide Kobe into the Spurs and he’ll happily take a reduced role without the ball in his hands?
Kobe is a Laker. He is staying a Laker. And while the next couple years will not be pretty, it’s the last chance for us to see one of the game’s all time greats in person and we should savor that.