Kobe Bryant is often angry. Sometimes he lashes out at his fellow teammates, other days it’s the officials. Over the years he has mastered the snide unapologetic comments that inspire the ire of fellow players and downright contempt from NBA fans. Here at Blitz Weekly I believe we can speak critically about players that we may not care for. So watch carefully as I attempt to figure out why this man is loved by few and hated by many.
On one hand he is applauded for his boldness when calling out players across the league. Recently he publicly condemned players who bring the drama every time they take a charge. He simply asked the question: “Where are your balls at?” We all know the flopping around on the court has become comical. And now even Commissioner Stern wants to take action to stop it. But maybe the call for change had to come from a villain to get the league to start taking it seriously.
As far as his performance this season, Bryant shot his lowest TrueShooting percentage and the third lowest field goal percentage of his entire career. He also turned in a less than stellar performance by having the worst steals-per-36-minutes rate that he’d ever had. But these numbers and stats don’t tell the entire story.
This August, Bryant will be turning 34 years old. And although he played through a torn wrist ligament, knee injuries and the creeping of father time, he managed to be 4th in the league for minutes-per-game and finish 2nd in points-pergame, just behind Kevin Durant. Yes you read correctly, 4th in the league and turning 34.
Bryant fought through this shortened lockout season while the roster was being adjusted for a new financial reality and a new coaching staff that struggled to connect with its players. And in the midst of all the upheaval he just focused on scoring and walked away with several 40-point nights. And of course his performance inspires the same old debates. Is he the best player in the league? Why is the team failing him if he’s leading by example?
After 16 years in the league, one would think that it is easy to sum up their view of Bryant. You can argue that without him the Lakers wouldn’t have even been in the playoffs. But his poor shot selection in Games 3 and 4 didn’t help them in the series either. There’s just no winning with Bryant sometimes, every time I look for good I find bad, and when I look for bad there’s usually a glimpse of an arrogant showboat that I somehow enjoy watching.
At the end, we witnessed Bryant just being himself. Throwing up repeated shots, constantly pushing into multiple defenders and showing his teammates and the officials his contempt. Bryant played as he always has, tough but flawed. It’s odd to admit it, but it was a masterful but disappointing season for this polarizing figure.