The ESPN NBA rankings are under way and it was announced today that Kobe Bryant was number 6. This outraged many basketball fans and left most of us wondering how one of the greatest players of all time can be disrespected by ESPN yet again.
Sure he is 34 years old and has played professional basketball for literally half of his life. Of course his legs aren’t the same and he lacks the athleticism he once had, but ESPN is telling us there are 5 other players in the NBA that are currently better than him? Be real. I’m not here to talk about the Kobe from the previous decade, in order to try to prove that he is still a top 5 player. I am here to defend the 2012 Kobe Bryant and prove why he is still absolutely one of the best in the game.
Let’s start by trying to figure out how exactly does ESPN rank these players. What has more weight when these “experts” decide where players should land on the list? Is it stats? Overall skill? Clutch gene? I decided to go directly to the source, espn.com, where they describe exactly how the players are ranked.
“We asked 104 experts to rate each player on a 0-to-10 scale, in terms of “the current quality of each player”
Okay, so let’s just take that for what it’s worth and view the “current quality” of Kobe Bryant.
Before the 2011-2012 season, Kobe Bryant received experimental therapy on his ailing left knee and ankle. He went on to average 27.9 points per game. At the age of 34, he had a legit chance of becoming the NBA’s leading scorer. All he needed was 38 points against the Sacramento Kings, but he chose not to play in order to save his health for the playoffs.
Against the Suns, Kobe scored 48 points, which was the most ever by a player in his 16th season. In response to the disrespectful rankings by ESPN last year, Kobe stated “Not bad for the seventh-best player in the league.” In the next three games, he scored 40,42, and 42. He did all of this with his shooting wrist being injured. This was the sixth time in his career that he had four straight games with 40 plus points, which had only been done by Wilt Chamberlain.
During the 2012 All-Star game, Kobe scored 27 points and became the number one All-Star scoring leader in NBA history. He also suffered a broken nose, during this game at the hands of Dwyane Wade, but this did not prevent Kobe from continuing his dominating play. He threw on a face mask and became what we all called the Masked Mamba. With 34-year old legs, a new face mask, and an injured shooting wrist, Kobe showed the NBA Universe that he was still capable of doing the things he did 10 years ago.
Kobe went on to pretty much match his career averages in almost every single statistical category last season. He finished averaging the most points he has had since the 2007 season.
The Lakers were ultimately eliminated by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the second round of the playoffs, but Kobe still showed that he was more than a force to be reckoned with. He averaged an amazing 30 points per game, 4.3 assists and 4.8 rebounds.
His entire performance during last season completely showed everyone that it wasn’t quite time for him to take a step back. He wasn’t ready to slow down and he is still arguably one of the best in the game.
I’m sure the list doesn’t bother Kobe and it also shouldn’t bother any of his fans. It’s completely political and unclear. Now with the help of guys like Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, if Kobe can continue to play the way he did last season, the NBA is in huge trouble. Fans of other teams should be horrified. Regardless of what ESPN tells us, this man is still a top 5 player in the league and he now has a revamped roster surrounding him.
Hopefully, Kobe leads the Lakers to a 2013 championship, holds up the trophy and says, “Not bad for the sixth-best player in the league.”