And Brandon Bass knows it.
The Lakers' new power forward buttered up his de facto boss with some kind (and altogether ridiculous) praise in comments to Terrance Harris of the New Orleans Times-Picayune:
We have arguably the best player in the game still. When (Bryant) is healthy he is a monster still. If he is healthy he's right up there with the best players in the league, that's LeBron or whoever the best players in the league are. When Kobe is healthy, 19 years in the game he is still elite.
If this is an attempt to get on Bryant's good side, it's excusable. Bryant got into his teammates plenty last year, taking digs at Jeremy Lin in practice and berating his entire team (and general manager) in a well-publicized tirade (NSFW time, kids):
Anybody would want to avoid that, so maybe Bass deserves a little slack.
If he genuinely believes Bryant is arguably the best player in the league, well...he's not in for a very long argument.
In 35 games last year, Bryant attempted an average of 20.4 shots per contest and posted an effective field-goal percentage of 41.1 percent. According to Basketball-Reference.com, he has the lowest efficiency paired with that much volume of any player during the past 40 years (though Allen Iverson comes awfully close).
Bryant's not making up for historically poor shooting on the defensive end, either. When guarded by Bryant last year, opponents shot the ball more accurately than their normal averages from every area of the floor.
Substandard defense is not new for Bryant. Grantland's Zach Lowe wrote an open letter begging No. 24 to put forth a little effort on D over two years ago:
Bryant, as the whole Internet (including this corner of it) has noted repeatedly, has been an irresponsible off-ball defender all season. He gambles out of scheme whenever he feels like it, often turning his back completely to his man, and several of Washington's 11 3s during the Lakers' home loss to the Wiz on Friday were the direct result of Bryant deciding he didn’t want to play team defense any longer.
Kobe's defense has been bad for a while. Real bad.
Fast forward to our most recent data, and you'll see the Lakers were better with Bryant on the bench than they were with him on the floor, per NBA.com:
|Bryant's On-Off Splits in 2014-15|
And if being "arguably the best" has anything to do with the ability to stay on the court consistently, maybe Bass failed to note Bryant has missed three-quarters of his team's games over the past two years. At age 36, with almost 47,000 regular-season minutes of wear on his tires, Bryant's not likely to get healthier going forward.
Look, it's fine to talk up your teammates. It's good for morale, and in this particular case, it might even be good for Bass' job security and emotional well-being. I get it.
But statistically, Bryant is far closer to being the NBA's worst player than he is to being its best. So let's all just nod politely at Bass' comments and move on.
Grant Hughes covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @gt_hughes.