Kobe Bryant, Shooting Guard
2011-12 Grade: B+
Ramona Shelburne from ESPNLosAngeles.com described Kobe Bryant’s development in a clear-cut way:
Going into the 2011-12 season, Bryant was surrounded with questions from the media and critics about the prospect of Father Time making an appearance in his game. But if you know Kobe even in the slightest way, Father Time doesn’t stand a chance going head-to-head with Kobe at this stage in his career.
While frustrating for fans, players and employes of the NBA teams and arenas, the lockout helped Bryant in a huge way. It allowed him to rest, rejuvenate and get possibly career-saving procedures on his knees in Germany. Of course, the lockout affected the Lakers and Kobe in the process of completely changing their system from “the triangle” to Mike Brown’s philosophy.
This season Bryant averaged 27.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists in 38.5 minutes per games. In the playoffs Kobe posted 30 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists in 39.7 minutes per game.
Bryant averaged five more minutes per game this season from last season, which affected his shooting efficiency. His true shooting percentage, which is what a player’s shooting percentage would be if you added free throw and three pointers (= Total points / [(FGA + (0.44 x FTA)]), was the worst in his career at .527, which was tied for 106th in the league.
Bryant had a tendency to force poor selected shots this year, as he spent most of the season taking long jumpers instead of aggressively driving the ball to the rim. He had a 3-31 performance on March 31st against the New Orleans Hornets. However, Bryant showed that he can still work wonders around the rim and dunk with force, a lot of the time to just prove a point, which fans loved.
Bryant struggled at the three-point line, where he shot 30.3 percent. That was his worst percentage from beyond the line since 2001-02. He also averaged 3.5 turnovers per game this season, which ties his worst turnover average since 2002-03. This statistic had a lot to do with the fact that Kobe held onto the ball too long and forced bad shots, as discussed earlier.
However, Kobe’s decreased shooting efficiency and increased turnover average could be correlated with the inconsistent performance from the other starters and the inability of the bench to contribute at an effective level, as the Laker bench this year was the worst in the league.
Despite his age of thirty-three years, Kobe Bryant led the league in scoring for the majority of the year. Bryant relinquished the scoring title to Kevin Durant after deciding to rest the last game of the year against the Sacramento Kings. The point difference between Bryant and Durant was one-tenth of a point.
Kobe’s usage rate of 33.0, which led the league, proved the high impact he has to the Lakers and their performance each game. Bryant also ranked in the NBA’s top ten in value added rating, which is the estimated number of points a player adds to a team’s season total above what a ‘replacement player’ (for instance, the 12th man on the roster) would produce.
Drive and focus is the most admirable characteristics of an NBA player that has the most influential impact on a team that doesn’t show up on a stat sheet. Kobe Bryant possesses this and is the best in the league at this. His determination has a track record to win games on its own, regardless of how he is shooting or how many points he has scored.
Throughout the regular and post-season, Bryant proved to the basketball community that his age is not having an impact on his game or his ability, at least not for now. He also proved that he is still the player to build the team around and with the right pieces can definitely lead the Lakers to ultimate success again.
Kobe Bryant’s drive and passion for the game are what make him a champion, a five-time champion to be exact. This could be seen firsthand during the post-season and especially in the second round series against the Thunder. When the Lakers were on the brink of elimination in Game 5 and the rest of the team dialed back on the effort they were playing with, it was Kobe Bryant who was playing like he wasn’t ready to give in yet. And he never will.
As Kobe stated in the press conference after his team was eliminating for the second year in a row in the second round, “I’m not fading into the shadows, if that’s what you’re asking. I’m not going anywhere. We’re not going anywhere.”
Speaking with Derek Fisher about Kobe’s determination towards the game of basketball and winning, Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com wrote:
You wonder if he’ll ever sleep well one day. When basketball is over and there is nothing left to chase, will he rest? Ah, but what about his drive?
“That doesn’t turn off,” Fisher said. “That’ll never turn off.”