In a recent interview Kobe Bryant is quoted as saying he could beat Lebron 1 on 1 “in his sleep.” When asked why, Kobe points out that as a 1 on 1 player he’s unmatchable, but Lebron is better at being a team player.
Throughout Kobe’s career he has been known as an amazing one-on-one player who is sometimes a triple-double threat and sometimes a team player. Often times people question Kobe’s shot selection and criticize his penchant for hogging the ball.
Kobe is 32 years old and about to enter his 15th NBA season. He’s played in over 1000 regular season games (of all active players, Kobe has played the 9th most regular season games and he is easily the youngest player in the top 10). That’s a lot of miles on his legs.
One of the biggest criticisms of Kobe Bryant is his inability to play within the flow of the offense. Kobe often dominates the ball, and he still hoists up 2 or 3 poor shots per game. Kobe has to exert so much energy to score each of his points, and sometimes it seems like he’s making the game too hard. Kobe expends too much time trying to break down his defender and often sometimes takes on multiple defenders.
Check out this INTENSE video about Kobe :
We’ve seen Kobe play efficient, cerebral basketball where he scores without taking bad shots and he makes the right play. The problem is, we often times see him force up bad shots or, as if to overcompensate, force passes when he has good scoring opportunities. Sometimes it almost seems like he’s gone into “pass mode” or “shoot mode”, instead of reacting to the flow of the game.
In order for Kobe to remain productive as he reaches his mid-30s, he’s going to need to ease off the gas pedal and conserve some of his energy. Instead of controlling the ball and shooting it each time he has an opportunity, Kobe should start to react to the defense. See what the defense is giving him, and instead of starting and finishing each play, how about just finishing the play or just setting it up for a teammate?
Remember in Michael Jordan’s later seasons when he acted like Neo from The Matrix? He would score in such an efficient manner, picking apart defenses as if he knew exactly where to be at exactly the right time. He would score without wasting energy on pointless moves, he literally played like he could feel everything in The Force.
That’s the level of play Kobe needs to adapt as he reaches his final seasons. More importantly, I think he should embrace the challenge of being a more team-oriented player. Quantitatively, I think his goal should be to average a triple double for an entire NBA season.
I know realistically, this is an impossible challenge. Kobe’s too old to grab 10 rebounds a game and we hope he doesn’t need to continue to play 40 minutes a game. However, Kobe can be a good passer and he’s a great rebounder. It’s not unrealistic to hope that Kobe could average 22 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists per game.
If Kobe accomplished this goal, he would win the MVP. Since Kobe has been labeled a selfish player for pretty much throughout his career, his image would benefit if he has appeared to truly embrace the team game. People would take notice of the “new” Kobe, and MVP voters would certainly reward his newfound dedication to the team. Of course, Kobe would still provide some late game heroics and take over games when he’s hot.
By coming close to averaging a triple double, he would also end the Lebron/Kobe debate by showing he can pretty much do anything Lebron can do. By playing a more cerebral, efficient game, Kobe could extend his career and save his body from wear and tear by not having to score so much and waste energy.
Michael Jordan won his last two MVPs when he was 33 and 35 years old, Kobe’s 32. Kobe is still in the prime of his career, but his playing style and work ethic (as well as luck) will determine how much longer his prime lasts. Kobe should continue to tinker with his game and I hope he comes out next year with a team-focused, more efficient, and practical playing style.
Kobe Bryant has had one of the most storied, epic, and best NBA careers of all time. Kobe has reached the level where he’s universally acclaimed as the world’s greatest, and he’s not done yet. Let’s start the movement, let’s get the word out. Kobe Bryant for 2011 NBA MVP.
Here’s one final video to remind us why Kobe Bryant is Simply the Best