Kobe Bryant: 5 Reasons Lakers Star Is Still the Man in L.A.

Tim Lewis@timdlewiContributor IJanuary 5, 2012

Kobe Bryant: 5 Reasons Lakers Star Is Still the Man in L.A.

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    We're seven games into the Los Angeles Lakers' 2012 season, and Kobe Bryant appears rejuvenated, refreshed and highly motivated from his much longer than usual offseason.

    With an extra 14 weeks of rest over the summer, Bryant was able to go to Germany to undergo an innovative procedure on both his right knee and left ankle.

    All indications thus far point towards the procedure being wildly successful, as Bryant appears to be moving around the court much better.

    The added lift on his jump shot is noticeable, along with a renewed ability to get to the basket on a regular basis.

    So with all the talk of Blake Griffin and Chris Paul being the new show in town, the reality of the situation may be that Kobe is indeed still the man in L.A.—at least until he says otherwise.

    Now let's take a look at why...

1. He Just Became the Sixth and Youngest Member of the 28,000-Point Club

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    On New Year's Day, Kobe Bryant became the youngest player in NBA history to reach 28,000 points at the age of 33 years, 131 days.

    It serves as yet another reminder that not only is Kobe one of the best players in Lakers history, he's also one of best to ever play the game.

    Now trailing Shaquille O'Neal by just 547 points for fifth place on the NBA's all-time scoring list, Kobe should break into the top five by mid-February.

    Next up on the list? Another Laker great, Wilt Chamberlain. If he stays healthy, Kobe could realistically pass Chamberlain by the very end of the 2013 regular season.

2. One of Two Members of the 25/6/6 Club This Season

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    Averaging 25.9 points, 6.3 rebounds and six assists per game, Kobe is one of only two players in the NBA to average at least 25 points, six rebounds and six assists.

    LeBron James is of course the other player, averaging 29.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game.

    Now in his 16th season, the fact that Kobe Bryant is still the second-best all-around player in the league speaks volumes about his legacy as one of the all-time greats in NBA history.

3. He's Finally Healthy, and He's Playing the Minutes to Prove It

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    Just when everyone was ready to write him off after an injury-plagued 2011 season, Kobe Bryant decides to go to Germany for an innovative procedure to help turn back the clock on Father Time.

    Now operating at 95 percent (he admits he will never be 100 percent again), Kobe is seeing his playing time increase this season and is averaging 35 minutes per contest as a result.

    This renewed energy is also allowing him to get to the free-throw line more, where he is averaging just under eight free throws per game.

4. His Renewed Commitment to Rebounding the Basketball

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    There is no question that Kobe Bryant's jumping ability has improved dramatically after undergoing two separate procedures over the summer.

    He's averaging 5.4 defensive rebounds per game (6.3 total) so far this year—the most he's averaged since the 2002-03 season.

    Kobe's increased athleticism has been noticeable in all aspects of his game this year, and it won't long before we start hearing about more professional athletes making trips to Germany during the offseason.

5. He's Kobe Bryant, and He Plays for the Lakers, Not the Clippers

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    Wait a minute—are we really having a debate on whether or not Kobe is still THE man in L.A.?

    Congrats to the Clippers on landing Chris Paul to go along with Blake Griffin, but let's not get ahead of ourselves here. They're still the Clippers.

    Last I checked, they were 2-2 with a 25-point loss to the Spurs and a 13-point loss to the Bulls.

    It's going to take a lot more than teaming up two All-Stars to knock Kobe off his perch in L.A.

    Let's not forget that the Lakers will likely have three All-Stars this season if Andrew Bynum keeps it up.

    Five NBA titles, two NBA Finals MVPs, one regular-season MVP, 28,000 career points, 13 All-Star games, nine All-NBA First Teams, nine All-Defensive First Teams and probably the seventh- or eighth-best player in NBA history.

    Do I need to go on?

    Yes, my friends, Kobe is still THE man in L.A.