In every major statistical category, except for free throw percentage, Kobe Bryant’s numbers have unquestionably dropped.
Minutes, points, free throw attempts–if you can think of it, it’s plummeted like Glenn Beck’s television ratings. But this was inevitable. Time is not kind to the human body, let alone that of an athlete, especially one that has been pushed to its limits for as long and as hard as Kobe Bryant’s.
Once an athlete hits a certain age, their production either falls off a cliff or steadily declines. Kobe’s has steadily declined.
But there is one aspect of his game that continues to persist: his uncanny ability to draw technical fouls.
Bryant earned fifteen technical fouls this season, up one from last year and four the year before that. Only Dwight Howard draws more technical fouls than Kobe Bryant.
This is, in large part, due to Bryant’s less than stellar approach to expressing his frustration following fouls he does not agree with. The most recent example of this occurred two weeks ago in a pivotal game against the San Antonio Spurs, when Bryant, jostling for position, grabbed the arm of James Anderson and was called for an offensive foul.
He did this by looking shocked and throwing up his hands, which, even in its banality, especially compared to theatrics of his other reactions, summoned Bryant’s final technical of the regular season–his fifteenth.
It’s a long way from the six Bryant averaged as a fifth year pro eight years ago and, in turn, gives us insight into his progression as a player.
No longer is he forced to cuss, scream, punch and kick the air in order accrue a technical foul (he still does, of course), he can just do absolutely nothing; and that is the mark of a player that has truly mastered his craft, or simply a symptom of deplorable officiating.
It's a tough call.
Either way, while the talking heads and supposed experts needle the point that Bryant's best days are securely behind him, this is not entirely true. He can still draw a technical foul like he was 25.
Maybe, even better.