Kobe looks as if his run of NBA greatest is winding down
I only saw a few of Michael Jordan’s last games and triumphs, because at 20, I wasn’t around to watch Jordan rule a decade of basketball and kill opposing players’ hoop dreams.
I’m a basketball fan from another era, yet I still know that Jordan will go down as perhaps the greatest ever.
I saw the door close on Air Jordan’s career,but I also saw it open on Kobe Bryant’s.
Like Jordan, Kobe, 33, is loved by many, hated by some but respected by all who defend him on the court. He doesn’t play for regular-season acclaim; Kobe plays to win championships. And for most of his career, he’s been able to do just that – win championships.
Under the guidance of coach Phil Jackson, Kobe and the L.A. Lakers won five titles. With and without Shaq O’Neal, Kobe proved he was a championship-caliber player.
Is Kobe still that same player?
The last time he won a NBA championship was in 2010. And the way things are looking this season, he won’t win one in 2012 – unless, of course, the Lakers can somehow acquire Dwight Howard. Kobe could take the route of, say, Kurt Thomas and be a role player aimlessly hoping his team can rally around his leadership and get him one step closer to being arguably on the same level as Jordan.
Whether Lakers fans like it or not, they are witnessing the decline of a star. LeBron James will fully be able to claim his place as the game’s best – well, King James will as soon as he figures out a way to win a championship.
Granted, as of now, Kobe is the leading scorer in the NBA. He did drop 42 points two nights in a row, but how long do people expect for that kind of performance from Kobe? Not long.
For right after his 42-point game Jan. 14 against the L.A. Clippers, he went 7-22 from the field and scored 14 against the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks -- the same Mavs that swept Kobe and the Lakers last season in the Western Conference Finals.
We’re only 15 games into a strike-shortened NBA season, which means more back-to-back games and more injuries. Kobe is currently nursing a wrist injury and had nagging knee problems. To lessen the risk of injury, he should be improving his shooting percentage from beyond the arc, right?
Well, he’s taking more shots from outside, but he’s missing more, too. Kobe is shooting 24 percent from beyond the arc, and his team isn’t benefiting from un-Kobe-like accuracy.
Now, I’m not saying Kobe Bryant won’t go down as one of the game’s greatest, because without a doubt he will. What am I saying is that his door is closing.He still has gas in his tank, but not much.
He is far from the player I used to see -- the player who shredded defenses and scored at will, even when triple-teamed; the player who put on that hideous game-face and who everyone knew wouldn’t miss a big shot; the player who proved to the world -- not once but twice -- that he could win rings without Shaq.