The Underappreciated Kobe Bryant

I watched the Phoenix game from last night up until the point that the Lakers had a comfortable lead and then decided to watch something else knowing that they would come away with their first road win in a while.  Unfortunately, they collapsed late and fell again on the road.  Kobe again looked like he wanted to be the point guard.  Time and time again he looked to pass when driving towards the basket and he ended up with 9 assists.  He should have had a lot more, but there were quite a few missed open shots last night.  What has changed Kobe's mindset over the past four games to make him into an elite passer in the NBA?

Kobe has been one of the greatest scorers in NBA history.  Over his 17 year NBA career he has always been a guy who looks to get his own scoring going before anyone else.  This years Laker team however, doesn't appear to need his scoring as much as it needs his incredible court vision.  Over the last four games Kobe has racked up 48 assists which is more than any other four game stretch in his career.  For a guy who has always been shoot first and second and pass third it is quite incredible to see him be so effective as a passer.

The reason I feel that Kobe is so underappreciated is because of the Michael Jordan effect.  Michael is considered by most of the NBA world as the greatest player ever.  It is tough to argue against that fact, but I always try to find ways to get Kobe into the conversation.  However, I always feel like Kobe was hurt by the comparisons to Michael.  Their games are similar, but each did something a little different.  Kobe gets stuck in that conversation of who is better and I think he needs to be judged on a different scale.  You have to take into account period of which they were playing, longevity, titles, etc.

Let's take a look at the two players in the NBA who I feel have surpassed Kobe at this point in his career, Lebron James and Kevin Durant.  Both players are unlike anything the NBA has seen before.  James is a 6'8" or 6'9" and 260 lb. freight train with incredible athleticism.  He is built like a linebacker or lineman and still able to be incredibly explosive on both sides of the court.  Nobody in the game has ever had the combination of size, strength and athleticism that James possesses.   Then there is Durant who is almost 7' tall with the wing span of a pterodactyl.  He is tall and freakishly long and yet has a silky smooth game and a jump shot on top of that.  He is a matchup nightmare and he can defend (when he feels like it).  Those two players possess something that Kobe does not have.

Michael and Kobe are 1a and 1b in my rank of greatest players ever and yet their builds are extremely similar.  They didn't have insane size, strength or length.  Kobe and Michael are about 6'6" or so and about 200 lbs.  You know how many good players there are that are those same builds in the world.  About a thousand.  But, they got more out of themselves then most of those "good" players ever could.  I swear every year there is a crop of young talented shooting guards who are supposed to be the next big thing and none of them ever amount to much.  The game is not built for that type of player as much anymore.  It's a point guards league and of course is always reserved for the freakish players like Durant and James.

I want everyone to marvel in the last few years of an incredible career.  Especially, if Kobe can find a way to get his current Laker team to be relevant again.  If he can do that by averaging 10 assists or more then he better be in the MVP conversation at the end of the season.  For a guy in his 17th season and still averaging over 28 points a game to all of the sudden become a pass first player to help his team win is quite incredible.  Kobe is not appreciated because he is the second coming of Michael Jordan.  People feel as though they have already seen this career play out before.  They want something new.  The new players are here, but don't count Kobe out just yet.

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