NBA Lockout: Kobe Bryant and 5 Players Who Can't Afford to Lose an Entire Season
For the 2011-12 NBA season, there are quite a few players who are desperately hoping not to lose any games for multiple reasons, but principally because Father Time is knocking on their door.
The stars of the past generation are reaching the end of the road, and it's unclear as to whether their bodies will allow them to play in many more games. What is clear is that their window to win another championship is closing—fast.
Others still have plenty left in the tank and are looking to prove doubters wrong. Not playing for a full season would only add fuel to the urgency fire.
Here's a look at the top five players who, for whatever reason, will be praying the experts are wrong and that a full NBA season will begin in November.
5. Greg Oden
Greg Oden has been one of the most disappointing draft picks of the past 10 years. His numerous injuries have prevented him from seeing consistent court time, and considering he was the guy who was picked before Kevin Durant in 2007, the time is now for him to prove that he wasn't one of the biggest draft busts in NBA history.
In the time he has been on the court, there have been flashes of the dominance he displayed in high school and in his lone season at Ohio State, and he's still only 23.
Portland met the qualifying offer of over $8 million to keep him with the club for another year, so it must be optimistic. That, or the Blazers are petrified he'll become the player they envisioned if they allow him to leave for another team.
4. Tim Duncan
Probably the greatest power forward of all time, Tim Duncan is finally starting to show signs of aging, as he posted career lows in points and rebounds last season. At 35, and having played over 1,200 games, it's understandable.
The San Antonio Spurs have made it apparent that they'll try to make one last run at an NBA championship after trading backup point guard George Hill for Kawhi Leonard, a rookie who I think is a major steal and could be that infusion of youth and versatility the Spurs need.
They still have Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, the key cogs that helped them win four championships in a span of nine years, but they too are aging, at 29 and 33 respectively.
Losing a year would prevent Duncan from adding to his legacy and probably deny him one last shot at a lengthy playoff run.
3. LeBron James
If LeBron thinks the scrutiny he's been under is bad now, give the media a full year to come up with stories criticizing his decision to take his talents to South Beach.
He's still got plenty of years to win a championship and probably will at some point, but his legacy will be forever incomplete until that team award is added to his résumé.
Granted, I don't think he cares about his legacy at all, but fans like myself who wish he had that killer instinct and strived for greatness will always look back on his career and wonder, what if?
Who knows—maybe a lengthy offseason will force him to develop a low-post game, something he should've done three years ago.
2. Boston's Big Three
Make no mistake—when Boston won the 2008 NBA championship, it made the decision to bring these three stars together a success. Danny Ainge brought in Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett solely to win a championship.
Everyone knew the Celtics' window wouldn't last more than a few years, so the fact that they won the title in their first season together took the massive pressure off their shoulders.
With Allen and Garnett now 35 years old, and Paul Pierce 33, they probably have one more year left to get another ring. Rajon Rondo's ascension to being one of the better point guards in the league has made this more realistic.
All three are first-ballot Hall of Famers, and they're probably three of the top 100 players ever, but each has something to shoot for with another championship.
For Allen, it's padding his long-range shooting records that will take some time before they're broken.
For Garnett, it's getting that second ring and putting him among the top five power forwards of all time.
For Pierce, it's being recognized as one of the all-time Celtic greats. Larry Bird, Bill Russell and the others all have multiple championships. If Pierce gets another title, there won't be any doubt in regards to his place among the greats who called Boston home.
1. Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant will go down as this generation's greatest perimeter player and probably among at least the top 10 all-time. With five championships, numerous All-NBA awards, an MVP and plenty of other accolades, losing a season won't diminish anything Kobe has done in his legendary career.
Yet Kobe has made it plain he's not satisfied, something I admire. He's still hungry and wants to go down as the greatest ever.
Currently 32 years old, losing an entire season puts the brakes on Kobe's quest for more championships and the scoring record.
Team-wise, the Lakers need to make some changes, as they were exposed by the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks in the second round. I'm not sure what the exact changes should be, but with new coach Mike Brown, it's uncertain how good the Lakers will be. I fully expect them to make the playoffs, but after that I don't know.
Since Kobe's natural comparison has always been Michael Jordan, getting a sixth ring puts him even with MJ.
Individually, Kobe is currently sixth all-time in scoring and can probably pass Jordan for third all-time, as he's only 5,000 points away and likely has a few years left in him. Still, losing a season will certainly affect his place in the all-time rankings.
He's already played in over 1,300 games, and he's going to start slowing down sooner rather than later. The last thing he needs for his legacy is to lose what will most likely be an incredibly productive season.