2011 NBA Ranking: No. 7
2010-11 By the Numbers: 25.3 PTS, 4.7 AST, 5.1 REBS
2011-12 By the Numbers: 27.9 PTS, 4.6 AST, 5.4 REBS
Who doesn’t think Kobe Bryant is at least a top ten player in the league?
Last season ESPN had Bryant ranked No. 7 behind the likes of Dirk Nowitzki and it had to be assumed that it was due to the sweeping of the Lakers in the second round by Dallas and the Mavericks’ crowning after a 4-2 series win against the Miami Heat.
Bryant was shown the door, almost in a similar way as last year’s postseason, but his effectiveness was much more prevalent.
The men around him were more responsible for the Lakers’ defeat than Bryant was, as he handled his business as usual. In the second round of last year’s Western Conference playoffs, Bryant only averaged 23.3 PTS in a Dallas sweep.
It wasn’t the same take-charge Kobe that fans were used to. It wasn’t the same man that had ice running through his veins that the world had come to appreciate.
Bryant appeared complacent at times and after Game 1 against the Mavericks, he did little to curve the Lakers’ destiny. In the 2012 NBA Playoffs, Bryant was in true form. Against the Denver Nuggets and the Oklahoma City Thunder, Bryant exposed every avenue of his game that would contribute to a victory.
It was the disappearing acts of both Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol that often dug the Lakers in a hole that Bryant couldn’t dig them out of alone.
Still, Bryant revealed that killer instinct that we have all come to adore and equally abhor. While using this offseason to keep his mind basketball-oriented, Bryant traveled with team USA to London and only showed off for the entire world to see.
Bryant hasn’t lost a step and when it’s necessary for him to rear his head to ensure an opponent’s defeat, he can be counted on to do whatever it takes.