We know what Kobe Bryant still thinks of his skills. Last year, when ESPN ranked him the 40th best player in the NBA right now, because he was 36 years old and coming off an Achilles injury, he said they were idiots. Then Bryant missed more than half of last season due to injury (and Byron Scott wearing him down with heavy minutes early).
So where does Bryant rank now?
If you ask newest Laker Brandon Bass right at the top. Turns out the New Orleans Times-Picayune did ask Bass that question.
“…we have arguably the best player in the game still,” Bass said. “When he is healthy he is a monster still. If he is healthy he’s right up there with the best players in the league, that’s LeBron or whoever the best players in the league are. When Kobe is healthy, 19 years in the game he is still elite.”
What did you expect him to say?
But is Kobe still elite?
All-time, no doubt Kobe is elite. He will go down as one of the game’s all-time greats. He deserves the retired number in the rafters and the statue out in front of Staples — none other than Jerry West called Kobe the greatest Laker. He’s an intense, old-school competitor, a guy with amazing fundamentals and footwork, a high hoops IQ, and back in the day some impressive athleticism. He’s got five rings because few players in league history have gotten as much out of their natural gifts as Kobe. He will be missed when he walks away.
But right now?
To quote Seth and Amy, “Really?”
Last season Kobe wasn’t surrounded by much talent so — as he has done in the past — he took on an incredible load in the offense, putting it on his back. The results were inefficient and physically wore him down (his shooting percentages dropped the deeper into the season he got). Kobe can’t carry that kind the same way as he did a decade ago. He can’t get to the rim the same way (and defenses packed it in on the Lakers) which led to 55 percent of his shots coming from 16 feet or farther out, and those shots were not falling. Kobe shot just 29.3 percent from three last season and had a true shooting percentage of 47.7 percent, well below the league average. Kobe still can pass and play a smart game (if he trusts his teammates), he also still made some plays, and he was certainly above average (which should give Lakers fans hope as Kobe will have better talent around him this season).
But elite? As in LeBron James, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kevin Durant kind of elite?
Sorry, but Bass is just spinning what his new team and its fans want to hear. Just like the idea the Lakers can make the playoffs.