Who they want?
They want Kobe.
And what he want?
He want the trophy.
The victory. And the glory.
No Shaq. No Robert Horry.
– ‘Lil Wayne, “Kobe Bryant”
How is he doing this?
The knees were supposed to ache. The dunks were supposed to turn into contested layups or one-handed leaners. He was supposed to clash with his new head coach. He was supposed to be angry at management for losing out on Chris Paul and for allowing Lamar Odom to walk away to a rival for next to nothing. He was supposed to step aside and let Blake Griffin take over Staples and Kevin Durant, the Western Conference. It’s their time now, right?
This was supposed to be the year in which it all rained shit on 24 — the year of the slow inevitable decline.
Instead, last night against the Phoenix Suns, Bryant became the first player in NBA history to score 48 points in a game in their 16th season or later, according to Elias Sports Bureau. This is not a one game fluke. In his 16th NBA season, he leads the league in usage rate at 39.1%. The next highest usage rate is Carmelo Anthony with 34%. He’s currently second in the NBA in scoring. Of the top 10 in scoring, nine are 27 years or younger. He’s scored at least 25 points in five straight games.
Again, how is he doing this?
Head coach Mike Brown is putting Kobe in position to win every offensive possession, coming off screens where he can catch and shoot or catch and drive putting the defense on its heels.
Statistically, he’s making his mid-range jumpshots. Bryant is shooting 52% from 10-23 feet. Last season he was at 38% from that range. As Derek Fisher said after last night’s game, it’s not just that Kobe is putting up points, it’s that he’s doing it efficiently and in the flow of the offense. In his last three games, all wins, Bryant is shooting 51.8% from the field, while also averaging 11 free throw attempts a night. At the age of 33 and with torn ligaments in his shooting wrist, Bryant is averaging more points, rebounds and assists per game than any of his previous three seasons.
“Not bad for the seventh best player in the league,” Bryant was quoted as saying after the game, referring to NBA Rank, which ranked current NBA players 500 to 1.
And there it is.
When you play 1,114 regular season games, 208 postseason games and 12 All-star games and when you accumulate five rings, you have nothing to prove. And yet, he’s still starving…but not for points, glory or even the victories. Like Jordan, Kobe is now at the stage of his career where he seeks out haters. Where he finds any slight and uses it as motivational fuel.
How is he doing this? You can look at the stats, analyze the strategies, and talk about the injuries. But the answer is way simpler than that.
Kobe’s still hungry…and Kobe’s gotta eat.