Almost immediately after Kobe Bryant won his record-tying fourth All-Star game MVP award, TNT analyst Charles Barkley said what he’s said all season long. His message was that Lakers star Kobe Bryant has lost his legs.
The All-Star game, which saw Bryant throw down at least three electrifying dunks, may prove that Barkley is jumping the gun with his assertion, but not even Kobe’s biggest supporters can deny that Bryant has lost a step athletically.
No, this is not another plea for the media to stop hating Bryant, because Barkley is correct, he just may be exaggerating Kobe’s athletic decline, but comparisons of his game now to his in previous years shows that he doesn’t have the same jumping ability that he once did.
Much in large part to the era of highlight dunks taking the highlight reels, the common misconception in basketball circles is that Kobe’s game has suffered due to the fact that he can’t get up like he used to. This is simply untrue, because as his athleticism has decreased, Bryant has found ways to evolve his game.
NBA greats such as Magic, Jordan, Kareem and Bird all went through periods in which they were not the most athletic players in the league, yet they still maintained their legendary status. Now in the midst of his 15th season, Kobe is doing the same.
During his initial years of his NBA career, Bryant was known for his high flying dunks and explosive play. Along with players such as Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady, Bryant was seen as the next generation of up and coming players to take over after Michael Jordan retired. Players such as McGrady and Carter have seemingly fallen off of the map after suffering a decline in athleticism, while Bryant has seemingly gotten better.
With constant improvement in various facets of his game, Bryant has maintained his spot at the top of the NBA elite. Every year Bryant seems to have another new trick up his sleeve and this comes through Bryant’s impressive work ethic, intangibles, and dedication to not just be an all star, but a legend.