Kobe Bryant is the most expensive player in the NBA, and with good reason. While there's no denying that his athleticism is in decline, he brings so much more to the table, making him worth every penny.
In terms of ability, he's still one of the best in the game—just not by Kobe Bryant standards. However, there are many intangibles that can't be quantified which help the Lakers win games, and championships.
These are seven ways he transcends his price tag.
Kobe Bryant is undoubtedly a general on the floor. When he's out there he is in control of the game, even drawing up plays from time to time. There are few players who can effectively take over and make things happen like he can.
You can try and teach leadership—people go to conferences to learn how to lead all the time—but Kobe is a natural born leader on the court and off.
Even on his off nights, Kobe Bryant comes to play. Some people say this is one of his flaws because he just keeps shooting, even when the shots don't fall, but that's part of why he's great.
Many players would get discouraged if they weren't making their shots, and defer, which potentially changes the game plan the team was going to run. Kobe knows that eventually he'll make the shots, never gets discouraged and just keeps playing.
Games when he's been sick or injured haven't mattered. Even with the stomach flu in Game 6 of the 2012 playoffs against the Nuggets, he came out and played hard. Kobe played 37 minutes and scored 31 points, shooting 56 percent in an losing effort.
This is a guy you want on your team.
Many times when listening to pregame shows, the commentator will say that Kobe is the only one on the court shooting. He lives and breathes winning—not just basketball, but winning—and he works hard to make sure that he helps his team as much as possible.
The man is easily the best player on the Lakers, so he doesn't need to be out there shooting early; he does it because he wants to be the best, and knows that it takes hard work. This is in stark contrast to players like Andrew Bynum, who show up late to playoff games.
Typically, Kobe will play injured, but last season he was forced to sit on the bench for a few games, earning the nickname "Coach Kobe." Kobe was seen talking to players and even drawing up plays.
He knows the game of basketball extremely well, and may have been around it longer than many coaches in the league today (considering his dad played overseas), so even when he can't play, he can still help his team by exploiting their strengths.
Kobe has got an extra gear that many players wish they had. Fans can see it building as a game gets close, or the team starts to fall behind. It's as if Kobe ignores the fact that he has a team, grabs the ball, and drains three three-pointers in a row.
It's a beautiful thing to see when he gets into this mode, and it often is the reason the Lakers win close games. There are a few players who can do this, but none so effectively as Kobe Bryant.
The most frustrating thing as a fan of any team is when you can tell that the players just don't care. They are there to get a paycheck and occasionally mail in games. Fans live and breathe their teams, but players jump around to whoever will pay them the most money.
Kobe cares about winning just as much as the fans.
He never gives a partial effort and if the Lakers don't win, he considers it “a wasted year of my life” (as he said in his exit interviews after the Mavericks swept them). You can always count on Kobe to want to win, and to care as much as those of you sitting at home in your jerseys or out at a bar yelling at the Celtics fan across the room.
If you're upset about a loss, you better believe that he is too.
This is a reason the organization may like more than Lakers fans, because the fans will fill the seats no matter who is on the team, but Kobe Bryant is an attraction who draws people to Staples Center.
When San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was sitting his star players at away games, there was talk about how that shouldn't be allowed since people go to games to see stars. Kobe Bryant is undoubtedly one of the biggest superstars in the NBA. Even with the Heat winning and Kevin Durant playing on the biggest stage, Kobe still had the No. 1 selling jersey internationally.
He is a huge reason people come to see the Lakers, and is therefore worth his price tag.