8 Reasons Why Kobe Bryant Is Correctly Ranked at No. 7 in ESPN's NBA Rank

Tim Lewis@timdlewiContributor IOctober 19, 2011

8 Reasons Why Kobe Bryant Is Correctly Ranked at No. 7 in ESPN's NBA Rank

0 of 9

    ESPN.com and the TrueHoop Network unveiled their top five NBA players today after counting down via Twitter from No. 500 to No. 1.  

    To the surprise of many, Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant checked in at No. 7 on the list.

    Lakers fans all over the world took to Twitter to voice their displeasure with the rankings, yet the question remains—are their complaints justified?

    The short answer is no.

    Let's take a deeper dive into the numbers to prove why Kobe's No. 7 ranking actually appears to be quite accurate.

1. He's 33

1 of 9

    It's kind of hard to believe Kobe Bryant turned 33 years old this past August.  

    Bryant has played a total of 48,326 minutes in 1,311 games (regular season and playoffs combined) over 15 NBA seasons.

    With the exception of Dirk Nowitzki (ranked No. 5), the players ranked ahead of Bryant were drafted between the years 2003 and 2007.

    Although Dirk is the same age as Bryant, he has played nearly 200 fewer games and 7,000 fewer minutes over his career.

    Meanwhile, the average age of the remaining five players ranked ahead of Kobe is 25.8 years old—over seven years younger than the man with five rings.

    Do you remember what Michael Jordan looked like after 48,000 minutes played? (He played 48,484 in his career, to be exact.)

    He was an out-of-shape, old man in a Wizards uniform who could only shoot turnaround jump shots from the low block.

    The bottom line? It's truly remarkable that a player with Bryant's mileage is ranked as the seventh-best player in the world as of today.  

2. His Minutes Are Way Down

2 of 9

    Bryant's minutes had been steadily decreasing with each passing season up until 2010, where he played an average of 38.8 minutes per contest.

    In 2011, Bryant played nearly five fewer minutes per game (33.9), while the five young guns (Dirk not included) ranked ahead of him averaged 37.7 minutes per night.

    Bryant simply can't compete statistically by playing nearly four fewer minutes per game than the players ranked ahead of him.

3. His Scoring Is Down

3 of 9

    As a result of his minutes being down (you should start to sense a theme here), Bryant averaged just 25.3 points per game.

    He's only averaged less than 25 points per game once since the 2000-01 season—24 points per game during an injury-riddled 2003-04 campaign.

    LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Dwyane Wade all averaged more points than Kobe last season.

4. He Struggled in the 2011 Playoffs

4 of 9

    The most obvious indicator of a poor playoff run is pretty easy to spot—number of games played.

    Bryant only played in 10 postseason games last season, as the Lakers were swept by the Mavericks in the second round.

    Further documenting his postseason struggles, Bryant averaged just 22.8 points in just over 35 minutes per contest.

    He struggled mightily from behind the three-point line, shooting 29.3 percent during the postseason.

5. Shooting Percentages Are Down Across the Board

5 of 9

    Bryant's 2010-11 shooting percentages were slightly down from his career averages—possibly the result of an arthritic right index finger.

    Bryant shot .451 from the field (his lowest percentage since '05-06), .323 from three (lowest since '01-02) and .828 from the free-throw line—slightly off his career average of .837.

    He'll need to improve his shooting percentages going forward as his game continues to drift towards the perimeter.

6. Injuries

6 of 9

    Kobe's lingering arthritic right index finger is slowly becoming a serious issue that's having an extremely negative impact on both his shooting and ball-handling.

    Add this on top of multiple knee surgeries and a slowly deteriorating ankle, and you've got a 33-year-old man trapped inside the body of a 43-year-old.

    Meanwhile, all of the players ranked ahead of Kobe (with the exception of Wade) have managed to stay relatively healthy up to this point in their much shorter careers.

7. Turnovers Per Minutes Played

7 of 9

    Again the result of a bum trigger finger, Bryant averaged 2.96 turnovers in 33.9 minutes per game in 2011, or one turnover for every 11.45 minutes played.

    By comparison, Kobe has averaged one turnover every 12.42 minutes for his career and one turnover every 14.1 minutes during the 2009 season prior to injuring his finger.

    Kobe doesn't turn the ball over as much as some of the players ranked ahead of him, but he does seem to be trending in the wrong direction.

8. He's Ranked Ahead of Derrick Rose?

8 of 9

    Really? Perhaps the greatest testament to just how good a 33-year-old Kobe Bryant still is revolves around the fact that he is ranked ahead of the league MVP, Derrick Rose (ranked No. 8).

    I think anyone who watched the NBA last season would have a tough time arguing that Kobe had a better year than Rose (although Rose struggled mightily with his shot in the playoffs).

    How can anyone say No. 7 is an unfair ranking for a 33-year-old Kobe Bryant when we are STILL ranking him ahead of a 23-year-old Derrick Rose?

The Verdict

9 of 9

    Look, Kobe is probably the sixth- or seventh-best player of all time at this point and the second-best shooting guard in the history of the NBA.

    No one is arguing against his greatness or his five rings or the legacy that he will leave behind.

    But these rankings are based on the players as of this second, and the bottom line is it all comes down to age.

    If you were drafting a team today, you might take Kobe over Dirk since they are both 33, but you certainly wouldn't take him over LeBron, Wade, Dwight Howard, Durant or Chris Paul.  

    Maybe you would take him over Chris Paul, but do you remember how good Paul was against the Lakers last year in the first round of the playoffs?

    And you really can't say you would take him over Dirk after he put on one of the best postseason performances in NBA history last year.

    So is the No. 7 ranking accurate? Coming from a diehard Lakers/Kobe fan, I think it is. I would actually rank the players like this:

    1.  LeBron

    2.  Wade

    3.  Durant

    4.  Dirk

    5.  Howard

    6.  Rose

    7.  Kobe

    8.  Paul

    In closing, just remember, these rankings are based on today, and no one can argue against the fact that Kobe's five rings are three more than this entire list combined (one for Wade and one for Dirk).

    Let the debate begin...


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.