When people talk about Kobe Bryant these past couple of years, you hear a lot about how he is old, and has played so many minutes that he doesn't have much left. Yeah, he has had a long fourteen year career, and has played some serious minutes, especially with all of his years in the playoffs and the Olympics.
But, is he old? The answer to that would be a huge resounding NO!
Let's put some things into perspective. Kobe did not play college ball, nor did he even play any more than 71 games until his fifth season in the NBA. In fact, Kobe only averages about 72 games a season for his whole career, and has still managed to put up some great numbers, and carry his team to the playoffs 13 out of 14 seasons. Kobe also didn't become the full time starter until his third season in the league, which was limited by the lock out in 1999.
By age 32 Jordan had played over 32,000 minutes including college, and he missed almost two full seasons of his NBA career. So you can imagine that if he had played those two full seasons, he would have played the same amount if not more. Jordan's stint with the Wizards after retirement was not a testament to what he could have done and how much he could have played if he had not retired after the 1997-98 season. I would say that he probably still had 2 maybe 3 more solid M.J. like seasons left after age 34. In 1995 would you have considered Jordan old? I think not.
Last year saw Kobe limited by a plethora of injuries, most notably was the index finger on his shooting hand and his ankle. The ankle injury was the worst of the two and kept him from playing in 9 games during the regular season. So with a clean bill of health this season Kobe will be back to his normal self, which is pretty scary if you think about it. Kobe still managed 27 ppg during the regular season and 29 ppg during the playoffs, all while enduring such an injury plagued year.
With the Pau Gasol, Ron Artest, and a still developing Andrew Bynum locked up for the next 3 years, Kobe will have a lighter load to deal with. Also with the added depth of this year’s Lakers bench, there won't be too many squandered leads that will require the Mamba to provide his spectacular heroics.
Kobe's post game, his jump shooting, and a reduction in having to do everything will surely increase his longevity. With Mitch Kupchak working his magic behind the scenes rest assured there will always be talented players around him, so he won't have to play so hard, which also will increase his years.
No one truly knows what the future holds, but you can bet the house that Kobe will play with the intensity and heart that we have all been accustomed to for years to come. And when it's all said and done Kobe, and all of us in Lakerland will laugh when we think about the time when people all said Kobe was old, and didn't have much left in the tank.