When Kobe Bryant entered this league, he also possessed great athleticism. He was a phenomenal leaper (Kobe’s hops once introduced Steve Nash to Kobe’s, err…nether-regions, in what is my favorite Kobe Bryant dunk ever). Check it out:
Ask yourself this though: When was the last time you saw Kobe dunk with such ferocity? I can’t remember any memorable dunks like that in the last three years off the top of my head. In fact, before the above dunk on Nash the last time I remember Bryant serving up a Superman-style Spalding facial was two years earlier with his dunk on an Orlando Magic rookie named Dwight Howard.
This is because Kobe Bryant’s game, unlike Shaq and LeBron’s, was never completely based on his athleticism. Sure, he came into the league as a great leaper and somebody who could attack the basket at will, but Bryant (like Jordan) always knew that his athleticism would one day fade. He knew that to achieve longevity in this league (and with it, true greatness) he was going to have to improve on his shooting and his mid-range game. (Which, to put it kindly, wasn’t his forte when he came into the league, as seen here).
And now, he is reaping the reward of his hard-work. Unlike LeBron, who is entering his physical prime, Kobe Bryant is on the downside of his career (physically). He’s 31, has over 1,000 NBA games on his odometer, is constantly battling nagging injuries (currently a broken index finger on his shooting hand), and here is what he’s been up to the last three years: Finals appearance, Olympic Gold Medal, Finals appearance (this time with a long-awaited victory), and he is now poised for another deep play-off run. These are the facts surrounding a man that just signed a 3 year, 80 million dollar contract extension with the Lakers.
Next: Why Bryant and James are clear choices for Batman and Superman…
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