If you read the NBA preview I wrote around Christmastime, you know that things aren’t going very well for me. I was right about the Celtics and Mavs taking a step back, and wrong about… everything else. The Clippers aren’t a title contender — they have the players, but their coach is awful, Derrick Rose isn’t winning another MVP, and the Spurs are not going to miss the playoffs. Yeah, I was way off on that last one. Eh, blame it on post-lockout confusion. Please?
But of all the predictions I mangled, the most infuriating one involves Kobe Bryant. See, I thought for sure he was done. After 15 years in the league, it looked like he just couldn’t be a dominating player anymore, and he was slowly shifting into a tired old man, with worn out knees trying in vain to carry a mediocre-at-best team. Maybe my Laker hatred got the better of me, because that is obviously not the case. The bastard is having his best season in 5 years, and is a legitimate MVP candidate. How the fuck is this happening?!
Well, in a situation that completely defies logic, Kobe ended up helping his team by becoming even more of a domineering ball-hog. He’s shooting it 30 times a game, and he doesn’t seem to give a flying fuck if anyone else gets their share. And you know what? It actually makes sense. The only other decent players on that team are Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum (possibly the strongest front court in the league), so it’s not like there’s some brilliant player just waiting for him to pass the damn ball. Hell, until they finally traded him last week, he was stuck with the rotting cadaver of Derek Fisher at point guard. Basketball is usually a collective sport, where everyone works together to win, but Kobe is playing Ayn Rand baksetball (Randsketball?), and it’s inexplicably working.*
The worst thing about this is that now we have to completely recalculate the ceiling for Kobe’s career. Going into this season, I had him in the top 10 all-time, but with no chance of coming anywhere near Magic, Kareem, or Jordan. Now, who knows? He could play 25 seasons for all we know, and win 10 titles or some crazy shit. I’m beginning to think he’s not human. What’s interesting is that if you watch him, he clearly has aged. He’s not a super-athletic dunking machine, and he can’t drive to the hoop the way Rose and Durant can. He just finds open shots and takes them. I’ve never liked Kobe as a basketball player, or a human being, but his ability to continue being a top 10 player, despite clearly losing some of his skills, is pretty damn impressive.
I’m not saying I’m going to run out and by a Lakers #24 jersey, or that we should all start loving Kobe. Indeed, we should always remember his shortcomings (especially the infamous one in Colorado, which the entire Lakers fanbase seems to have happily forgotten about), but when looking at the guy’s career, we should look at how he’s managed to adapt his game to his declining athleticism, and as a result, remain one of the best players in the league. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be playing with a Kobe Bryant voodoo doll, trying to make sure he doesn’t win MVP in 2023. Those knees have to collapse some time!
*EDITOR’S NOTE: Randsketball was invent by Alan Greenspan while raping Ayn Rand in a quarry, per her request, according to the history.