Kobe Bryant and his Los Angeles Lakers might not have the top seed in the Western Conference for these 2011 playoffs and may have stumbled in Game 1 of the first round, but they are still the team to be reckoned with as the NBA’s second season begins.
Most importantly, Kobe Bryant needs to be feared by Western Conference rivals.
That might not seem the case with the Lakers’ play in April or with the at-home loss to the New Orleans Hornets Sunday, but the Lakers, and more specifically, Kobe Bryant, possess the traits to make the three-peat run.
If you flash back to the start of last season’s playoffs, the same buzz surrounded the Lakers. They stumbled their way to the finish line and looked extremely vulnerable. Isn’t that the exact words we’re hearing now?
But here’s the key difference: Kobe is not only hungry, he’s healthy.
Last year, Kobe’s body was a wreck. He had a serious knee injury and chronic and recurring finger injuries that plagued him throughout last season and really slowed him down.
He recently spoke about the difference between this year and last.
“I knew I needed surgery on my knee at the end of the year,” Bryant told Yahoo! Sports. “So it was like sort of putting Band-Aids on it until June trying to get through with it. Now I feel completely healthy.”
Kobe’s legendary work ethic and burning desire is without question in today’s NBA and puts him in that stratosphere of players who can literally will their team to victory.
But while Kobe might perform super-human feats on the court, he still bleeds red and can be limited by injury like everyone else. It is not the hunger that will separate him and make him the most dangerous player in this year’s playoffs, but his health.
Kobe went on to say, “I’ll be stronger, have a lot more energy and can do more things on the court. Last year I was very limited to what I could do.”
This is a huge point. A month or so ago, Lakers head coach Phil Jackson even questioned how the Lakers possibly won the title last season with the limited Bryant.
Health and hunger make Kobe deadly. He should be feared. It would be to the detriment of every team in the West if they don’t.
When you add Kobe’s experience, his clutch shooting and preparation to that hunger and health, there is no reason to doubt Kobe won’t deliver a three-peat to LA.
And if there was one extra element to add to the arsenal, don’t kid yourself that sending Phil Jackson off into retirement not only with a 12th NBA title, but a fourth (unbelievable) three-peat, is that little extra motivation for Kobe and company.
Kobe’s health is really the key factor and the difference maker. The entire show and saga of doom and gloom and the Lakers “turning on and off” some switch are irrelevant now that the second season is upon us.
And, typical of the Lakers’ regular-season play, it is not surprising that LA lost Game 1 to New Orleans. But lost in that loss was the superior play of Kobe.
All the naysayers have it wrong. He’s not lost anything. Sure, he might not fly like he used to but has adjusted his game to go with his physically talents. Look no further than Game 1.
Kobe was unstoppable and efficient. If Pau Gasol had decided to show up for Game 1, everyone would be touting that the Lakers are back in championship form.
No need to worry. LA is primed for a title run and it all goes directly to the health of Kobe Bryant.
His body is ready this year and that truly is a game changer.
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.