Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest NBA players of all time.
Most people consider him to be the second-best shooting guard ever behind Michael Jordan.
Yet, over the past year I have come to believe his career merits him being included in the top 5 players of all time.
Kobe recently surpassed Dominique Wilkins and Oscar Robertson in career scoring, and should soon surpass Hakeem Olajuwon, Elvin Hayes and Moses Malone to finish the season ranked sixth.
By next season he will likely surpass Shaquille O’Neal.
In fact, if he can play out only the rest of the three and a half years on his contract, he could also surpass Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain.
While scoring records are great career accomplishments, Kobe’s recent news on his right knee may cause him issues in achieving them.
By now, most people have heard that Bryant announced that there is very little cartilage in his right knee, causing a bone-on-bone situation.
Knee problems can be quite painful and have hampered the careers of several legends, including Penny Hardaway and Bill Walton.
As the Los Angeles Lakers battle for a playoff position, Bryant will need to play for his team to have any chance at getting a high enough seed for a shot at another championship.
To best preserve him for the rest of the season and playoffs, he should severely limit or skip practices.
The following list details several reasons it makes the most sense to have Kobe rest by skipping practices for the rest of the season.
As of right now, Kobe Bryant has played in over 1,270 NBA games, if one counts playoff and All-Star games.
By most standards, players who have reached over 1,200 games are in the twilight of their careers and a shadow of their former selves.
Granted, Kobe never played in college, so the comparison to other players gives him at least this advantage.
Bryant may not win the MVP award this season, but once again he is having an MVP-caliber year.
Perhaps no other player has had as good of a season in his 15thyear in the league.
But with this knee situation, we know that Bryant doesn’t have many games left in the NBA.
He may be effective for another season after this, or perhaps he may still be dominant for another five years.
While it is hard to pinpoint an exact number, we do know that limiting his playing time in practice should help preserve his knee.
This, in turn, will help Kobe achieve his career goals in the NBA.
When one counts all of his NBA games played, Kobe Bryant has played about 47,000 minutes.
Very few players have played longer.
These minutes represent time that Kobe has spent running up and down the court, contributing to his present-day knee situation.
But this figure does not include all of the minutes Kobe has put in at practice.
Few players put in more time at practice than one of the hardest workers in the NBA. Here’s a player that goes to practice at 7 a.m. each day during the offseason.
Cutting down time at team practices will reduce Kobe's minutes and should help him in his quest to play longer.
Kobe Bryant on the 2008 Team USA in the Olympics
During the summers of 2007 and 2008, Kobe Bryant helped lead Team USA to victories in the Tournament of the Americas and the Beijing Olympics, respectively.
But the point of mentioning this is to add these games and playing time (and practices) to the figures previously given.
No doubt, Kobe has already put in an impressive amount of time on the hardwood.
The Lakers will have to be careful with him if the team wants him to be dominant for another five years.
After coming back (yet again) from his own knee issues, Andrew Bynum is starting to play like the dominant force LA fans remember from back in January 2008.
During that month, before Bynum sustained his first major career injury, Bynum averaged over 17 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks on 70 percent shooting.
While Bynum is probably only about 75 percent to full recovery, Lakers fans are realizing just how important he is to the team.
For the first time in his career, Bynum is having a significant impact in helping the Lakers get wins without having to be so athletic.
He is playing smart and changing the way other teams try to score on LA.
The result is the Lakers once again having one of the best team defenses in the NBA.
If Kobe skips out on some practices, it may affect how he performs in games. But even if Kobe struggles a bit more during the regular season, fans can rest assured that Bynum is capable of picking up some of the slack.
Another player posed to help Bryant is Shannon Brown. His stellar play this season has helped limit Bryant to his lowest playing time since his second year in the league.
Although Brown comes off the bench, he is the most important player after Lamar Odom among the reserves.
He could be a starter on at least half of the teams in the NBA.
While Brown has cooled off after a blazing-hot start to the season, he is still one of the more explosive reserve players in the league.
If he can maintain his improved play for the rest of the season, this will help the team’s confidence in practicing without Kobe.
Speaking of bench players, Lamar Odom is having a career year.
He may not be the league’s leading scorer off the bench, but Odom deserves to be an All-Star this year.
Odom, one of the NBA’s leaders in field goal percentage and rebounds, has helped his team with impressive clutch play and his ability to execute the offense well.
Sometimes Phil Jackson tends to over-rely on Kobe to make big plays for LA. Perhaps Odom can help by stepping up more throughout the game, allowing Kobe to get additional rest on the bench.
Like Shannon Brown, Pau Gasol started the season playing stellar basketball.
Many pundits claimed that he was the MVP and best player on the Lakers.
Yet, as usual Gasol was unable to keep up his play for long as his aggressiveness seemed to wane.
Part of this was due to Gasol getting tired, but there were also plenty of times where he seemed to lack focus.
But Gasol has the ability to make things much easier for his teammates, including Kobe.
The Lakers need to continue to feed Gasol the ball more often—especially when he is matched up with opposing power forwards, since he is likely to have a size advantage.
If Gasol can take advantage of these opportunities, he should be able to assist his team greatly in case of any slippage in Kobe’s play due to missed practices.
While the Lakers may give up a few wins by giving Kobe some extra rest, the team can learn a lesson from last year’s Boston Celtics.
While the Celtics endured several injuries throughout the season, which led to an unimpressive 50 wins, Boston focused on getting all of its key players healthy.
Los Angeles needs to realize that the season is a marathon, not a sprint.
If the Lakers can reach the playoffs with its core players healthy, the team can have considerable success.
It will help LA to finish no worse than the second seed in the Western Conference, but the Lakers are built for seven-game series.
During the playoffs, teams rely much more on half-court offensive sets than fast-break opportunities. With that in mind, the Lakers have one of the better half-court offenses and defenses in the league.
The big-man combo of Bynum, Gasol and Odom provides matchup problems for most teams. Ron Artest and Matt Barnes can help slow down top perimeter scorers.
And then there's Bryant, who usually shines during the playoffs.
Because making sure Kobe is healthy for the playoffs is one of the top priorities for LA, getting him extra rest during practices makes sense.
Kobe Bryant has only a few select years left where he can realistically have a chance at winning a title.
While it may be difficult, if not impossible, to surpass Michael Jordan’s legacy, imagine some of the conversations people might have if Kobe is able to win two or three more championships and Finals MVP awards.
Kobe wants to surpass Jordan in championships. If he can accomplish this goal and get close to him in earning Finals MVP awards with four or five, all of a sudden the Jordan/Bryant arguments get more interesting.
Just being talked about in relationship to Jordan has to be an honor for Kobe.
But to have a legitimate claim as the greatest NBA player of all time, Kobe’s knee will have to hold up for another four or five years while the team’s core players are intact.
Kobe Bryant in the 2010 NBA Finals
Besides catching and surpassing Jordan in titles, imagine how people will consider Bryant if he can lead the Lakers to at least two more championships.
While the Lakers currently trail the Boston Celtics by one championship for the NBA’s top team honor, two more titles would give the Lakers a total of 18, surpassing Boston's.
At this point, Kobe will have two more championships than Lakers legend Magic Johnson.
While Magic helped make LA into one of the premier franchises in the league, Kobe can be known as the player who lead the Lakers to the pinnacle of the NBA.
Two more titles and Finals MVP awards would also vault Kobe past Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
By surpassing Kareem and Magic, two players considered to be among the top five of all time, Kobe would be considered one of the top three or four players by default.
Similar to Michael Jordan, Kobe cares very much about his legacy.
This is why it is important for him to promote his longevity.
Skipping or limiting practice for Kobe is crucial, even if it means giving up a few regular-season games.
For Kobe, it may be his best chance at trying to quiet many of his critics.