Kobe Bryant just turned 33 years old last August and will soon be entering his 16th season.
It’s been a great 15 years for Bryant. He has won five NBA Championships with the Los Angeles Lakers and many individual awards and honors. He is without a doubt one of the greatest players in NBA history. Unfortunately, just like every player, Bryant is getting old and his performance last season showed it. Still, we have people with this notion that Bryant is currently the best player in the league.
I understand if someone says that Bryant was the best in the 2008-09 season. I don’t necessarily agree, but someone could make a good case for his athleticism back then. However, this isn’t about two or three years ago.
This is about 2011 and in the 2010-11 season Bryant was not the best and there’s no way someone could make a strong case saying otherwise. Keep in mind that this is not about careers. This is about today, the present.
Let me show you where I think Bryant ranks now:
1. LeBron James
2. Dwyane Wade
4. Dirk Nowitzki
5. Kevin Durant
6. Kobe Bryant
As you can see, Bryant is not even close to being the best. How can someone say he is the best when players like James, Wade and Nowitzki played better last season?
In order to see if Bryant is the best, we need to take look at how productive and efficient he was last season. These are his regular season stats:
25.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 4.7 apg, 1.2 spg, 0.1 bpg and shot 45.1% from the field
In the playoffs he did even worse:
22.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 3.3 apg, 1.6 spg, 0.3 bpg and shot 44.6% from the field.
If Bryant is the best player in the league, his stats should have been better. In 2010-11 he had his worst regular season since 2004 and his worst playoff run since 1998.
His fans will surely defend Bryant by saying that he only played 34 minutes per game in the regular season. First of all, playing just 34 minutes per game proves that Bryant can’t play like he used to. Playing fewer minutes is actually a bad thing when we are talking about the best player in the NBA.
Second, what these people don’t realize is that Bryant led the league in missed shots. How is it possible to lead the league in missed shots with just 34 minutes of playing time per game? Yes, he led the league field goal attempts, but here’s the best part: Despite having the most shots and highest Usage Rating, he only managed to be fifth in scoring average.
Now if a player is going to take (and miss) the most shots, he better make sure to score the most points. Ranking fifth in scoring while taking the most shots is unacceptable and is not what the “best” player should be doing.
Bryant was 19th in the NBA’s Efficiency Rating, something the best player in the NBA simply can't do.
So what makes Bryant better than, say, James or Wade? Some say he’s more skilled and that he has a better jump shot.
However, if he were more skilled then his stats and performance on the court would have been better. If he has the best shot then he would have been more efficient with it. How can you have the best jump shot when you take the most shots but finished fifth in scoring?
Hypothetically, let’s say he does have the best shot. Yao Ming had a better shot than Shaquille O’Neal. Was he a better player?
Fans will also say that Wade and James, especially James, choked in the Finals. That’s the worst argument. It’s not like Bryant and the Lakers won the NBA Championship. The Lakers didn’t even reach the Western Conference Finals. They got swept in the Semifinals by the Mavericks and both James and Wade played better against the same team.
Bryant’s performance was awful. I'm not saying James was not awful, but Bryant was worse. He averaged 23.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg, and 2.5 apg. That’s just terrible.
Fans need to open their eyes and stop calling Bryant the best player in the NBA, because he isn’t. You can like Bryant, but you can’t ignore the facts.
This is not about a career or legacy or who was better three seasons ago. This is about the current best player and right now that's not Bryant.
The facts don’t lie.