Some say that the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant has lost something with age. But even if he has slipped back to the rest of the pack, he still is the leader of that pack. That’s because, like Michael Jordan before him, Kobe is a stone-cold assassin who has evolved his game even as the miles have racked up.
And as another playoff run approaches for the two-time defending champion Lakers, Kobe remains the league’s most dangerous player.
Belittle him during the regular season, question his lift, harp on his injuries and endlessly debate his skills. The simple fact remains that Kobe is a player on a team no one really wants to play come May and June.
No matter the struggles of the Lakers throughout this season, which has been an up-and-down ride nearly unlike any other season, this is still a team that appears to be able to flip a switch, turn it on and win key games. And they don’t get any bigger than in the playoffs.
The Lakers aren’t just Kobe Bryant. That much is clear, not only this season, but really since the arrival of Pau Gasol.
But the reason for LA’s title success these past three years that resulted in NBA Finals trips is that Kobe Bryant sets LA apart from all others.
Exactly like MJ before him, no matter sick, ailing or aging, Kobe is cut from that same block. We thought the mold was broken with MJ. Think again.
But why? What are the main reasons that makes Kobe so dangerous, especially in the playoffs?
Fueled to simply be the best, Kobe might be the most driven player in NBA history, outside of Michael Jordan.
Kobe has an internal fire and drive that propels him further, pushing himself and his Lakers to greatness. That makes Kobe extremely dangerous come the playoffs, as other teams must match that energy and drive or get run over.
Like MJ before him, Kobe is a killer at the close of a game.
Everyone, from opposing coaches and players to viewers at home, knows where the ball is going at the end of the game for LA. But you can’t stop it.
Kobe’s legendary game-closing ability makes him deadly in any tight game or series.
Kobe’s work ethic is legendary and he is another factor as to why he is so dangerous, especially in the playoffs. Kobe will be prepared, both physically and mentally.
Last year, especially in the Boston series in the NBA Finals, Kobe hired his own personal scout to provide him with game tape on the Celtics and what they were trying to do to him, as well as how they were defending him.
All of that is on top of the physical effort that he puts in and the lengths Kobe will go to for his body to be ready for the playoff run.
Don’t discount this dangerous point. There are plenty of talented players in the NBA, but Kobe clearly understands that work ethic also separates the great from the good.
Don’t kid yourself. One of the things that makes Kobe so dangerous in the playoffs is the same thing Jordan possessed—respect.
Opponents know what Kobe is capable of. That alone allows doubt to creep into their minds. Kobe already has an edge, but now the opponents mindset opens that gap.
Kobe will stand up to anyone and for any teammate.
And don’t think that if a game is close, the other team doesn’t respect and know where the Lakers will be getting the ball for a go-ahead bucket.
Kobe has described himself as a “talented overachiever” and it is that fear of failure that fuels his internal fires.
The fear propels him and, unlike many players, especially in the playoffs, Kobe embraces that fear and uses it to achieve excellence.
It is a dangerous and highly-combustible energy source and it is the sole reason he was able to play injured during last year’s playoffs.
Look for that same fear—maybe even more so as he ages—to fuel him again.
Schooled by Phil Jackson, Kobe excels at being in the present moment. The game slows down for Kobe, like it did for all the greats.
And Kobe seizes those moments and attacks those opportunities. He not only works hard to be the best physically, but also mentally.
He always has that scorer’s mentality, knowing the next shot will go in. And that mental approach makes him always prepared, exactly like his Zen Master coach has the Lakers during championship runs.
Simply put, Kobe’s game has changed as he has aged. He’s developed an even more lethal mid-range game and a wicked post-up one.
Like MJ, Kobe has a patented turnaround move that is nearly impossible to guard, especially if Kobe has any lift remaining in his aching knees.
And Kobe is still the league’s most skilled offensive player, possessing the ability to score from anywhere on the court. He has nearly zero weaknesses.
This makes him a tough matchup and the focus of any opponents' game plan.
Five NBA titles in seven appearances. Kobe has played in more NBA Finals than his hero and the player he is chasing, Michael Jordan.
And, like MJ before him, that experience, hardened by playoff battles, is priceless.
Coached by the Zen Master himself, the Lakers play as instructed by their head coach. They never panic, and neither does Kobe.
Kobe and his Lakers are the quintessential "been there, done that" team. Experience is always an ally.
Who is Kobe Bryant? Want to learn the details of Kobe Bryant’s legendary work ethic? Or why Kobe considers himself a “talented overachiever” or an “outcast” for much of his life? Check out the new book, The Kobe Code: Eight Principles For Success- An Insider's Look into Kobe Bryant's Warrior Life & the Code He Lives By, at www.PatMixon.com.