MVP Season Aside, Kobe Bryant Just Can't Win in Court of NBA Opinion

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistDecember 19, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 14: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots over Martell Webster #9 of the Washington Wizards during the second half at Verizon Center on December 14, 2012 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Kobe Bryant is working on what is quite possibly the greatest season of his career, despite the fact that he's playing in his 17th season in the NBA.

Bryant is averaging a league-high 29.5 points per game, continuing on the trend of right around five assists and five rebounds per, and doing it all while having one of the most efficient seasons to date.

He's shooting 47.7 percent from the floor, 38 percent from the three-point line and 87 percent from the free-throw line, and all while he's continuing to play the role as the Lakers main ball-handler, getting shots from isolation more often than not.

That's a pretty amazing start when you consider he could end up being even better as the season rolls along.

If Steve Nash's history is any indicator, he's going to be able to get Kobe more open three-pointers and more chances on cuts to the rim.

At the very least he's just another body on the floor for the opposition to think about.

There is, of course, one main criticism of Kobe: He shoots too much. Even when the shots are falling at a consistent rate, he shoots too much.

The stats are hard to ignore. When Kobe shoots 20 shots or more this season, the Lakers are 4-11. When he refrains and shoots fewer than 20, the Lakers are 8-2.

Chris Broussard took a look at the past few seasons and found that the Lakers have a .535 winning percentage when Kobe takes more than 20 shots, compared to a .785 winning percentage when he's taking fewer than 20 shots.

Even team scouts seem to have the same opinion of Bryant:

One thing our coach always says is, 'Kobe's probably going to get his 28 points, but let's make sure it's on 28 shots and not 16 shots.'

If Dwight's not going to try his butt off and if other guys aren't going to try their butts off, then I'm going to give the ball to the guy that's going to go for it, and that's Kobe. I don't think it's that Kobe doesn't trust his teammates; it's just that he trusts himself more. A questionable shot by him still might be better than a good look for one of those other guys.

The entire situation is still pretty far from being cut and dry now, isn't it?

The crux of the problem is knowing exactly where the endless loop of Kobe shooting starts.

Does Kobe shoot too much, leading to less ball movement and less rhythm for the rest of his team, causing them to have bad games? Or does Kobe decide to rack up shot attempts because the rest of the guys on his team aren't making shots?

It's a classic chicken-or-the-egg conundrum.

The fact is, people are going to use the side of the argument they want to take, based on their opinion of Kobe. There's sufficient enough evidence to support either belief.

The majority of the people that have a single thought about the NBA have an opinion on Kobe, most of them pointedly at one end of the spectrum or the other. He's either an insatiable ball hog who kills team chemistry in his chucking ways, or he's one of the greatest gifts the game has ever seen.

The moderate, level-headed opinions usually get pushed to the margins, while the flame war rages on.

Even the general managers around the league seem to pick a side with Kobe. One even took time out of his day to bash the way Kobe has handled playing with Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum (per Broussard's article):

Take a look at Andrew Bynum's quotes the other day, where he said Kobe stunted his growth. He didn't like playing with Kobe. 

Go back to the Oklahoma City series. Everybody blamed it on Pau and Bynum, but to me, it was more Kobe's fault. 

It's obvious to me that Kobe doesn't trust him (Dwight). And I'm not so sure he likes the way Dwight jokes around so much.

Of course, there's no reason for an opposing general manager to heap praise on Kobe. Every other team with a chance at the playoffs stands to gain if the Lakers don't end up making it. They're a dangerous team regardless of their record right now.

The point here is not to argue whether or not Kobe is a good teammate, there, like the question of Kobe shooting too much, is evidence to support both sides of the argument.

What it is, rather, is that there is a presence of mind around the league—and the basketball world in general—that Kobe's game lends itself to scoring, and the fact that he does a lot of it is not only unimportant, but detrimental to his team.

There isn't one overarching conclusion about Kobe shooting too much. You can't make blanket statements about situations that seem similar, but are entirely different depending on each game's situation.

The fact is that Kobe trusts himself more than he could possibly trust any of his teammates. It's always going to be that way.

Only at the end of the season can we come to a definitive conclusion as to whether or not that was a successful way to go about playing.