Kobe Bryant: Underestimated, Overrated and Still Arguably the NBA's Top Player

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IFebruary 28, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 25:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers waits on the bench during pregame introductions for the game with the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on February 25, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers won 108-95.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Kobe Bryant is aging, he's probably lost a step, he's not as explosive and he likely won't get you 81 points in a game.

Those are just some of the terms that have been used to describe Bryant's demise.

With those sentiments permeating through the NBA landscape, it's easy to assume that Bryant no longer resides among the NBA's top players—except his numbers and his impact suggests the opposite.

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose are considered the NBA's top young players and front-runners in the MVP discussion, but does Bryant no longer reside among that group of elite players?

What has either of the above-mentioned players done that would lead a person to assume they have surpassed Bryant as a player this season?

Recently, there have been numerous articles that have trumpheted Bryant's decline and there was even one that espoused the opinion that a recent Lakers road win over Oklahoma City had nothing to do with Bryant.

The writer failed to mention that Bryant scored 17 points, collected seven assists and held Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook to four points after halftime, but such is the life when you're the player everyone loves to hate.

Criticism of Bryant and his game has to be the longest running commentary in the NBA today, which is a little strange considering how Bryant continues to excel despite the negativity.

This was supposed to be the year that Bryant's game would visibly decline, but instead he remains one of the top five scorers in the NBA, with more than 25 points per game, and his Lakers have a very good chance of returning to the NBA Finals for a fourth consecutive year.

But it seems that the more successful Bryant is, the more he is demonized and what other current player has enjoyed as much individual and team success as Bryant?

Five NBA championships, over 27,000 career points scored and two Finals' MVP awards later and there are still those who choose to dismiss those accomplishments and linger on the poorer aspects of Bryant's game.

And to be fair, there are areas of the game that Bryant still struggles with.

Bryant still has a tendency to rush his shot, sometimes he over-dribbles and there are still instances where his trust in his teammates can be questioned.

But in the big picture, does any of that really matter?

At the end of the day, will Bryant's flaws outweigh his achievements past and present?

It's doubtful and furthermore, it seems that Bryant draws motivation from all the criticism, whether real or imagined.

Bryant may never be remembered as the greatest to ever play the game, but he is arguably the greatest of this generation and at 32 years of age, there are still chapters left to be written in his legacy.

Bryant is already the leading scorer in the history of one of the NBA's most prestigious franchises and when he ends his career, he will likely reside among the NBA's top five scorers of all time.

Everything Bryant has accomplished in his career would definitely place him among the NBA's legendary players, but contrary to some opinion, Bryant is still relevant in the discussion of today's top players as well.

For some, Bryant will always be one of the most overrated players in the game, regardless of what he accomplishes, but fortunately the truth found in his continued success is much greater than the negative perceptions.