Over the past decade or so, it would be hard to argue that any one player in the NBA has been more dominant individually than the Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant. With four NBA titles, an NBA MVP and the distinction as the best player in the world, Kobe has ruled the NBA in the same fashion that Michael Jordan did throughout the 90s with the Chicago Bulls.
Ever since the Los Angeles Lakers traded their face of the franchise in Shaquille O’Neal to the Miami Heat back in 2004, Kobe Bryant has had to single handedly lead this team back to dominant status in the NBA. Early on in the post-Shaq era, things really didn’t look good for the Lakers as they struggled to even make the playoffs and just didn’t have the right role players surrounding the Black Mamba in order for them to become a contender in the Western Conference.
Fortunately, after a lot of turmoil and trade demands, Kobe Bryant was finally able to get that key piece to the puzzle for the Lakers in Spanish import Pau Gasol. In perhaps the biggest “steal” trade in NBA history, the Lakers basically gave up nothing in return for arguably one of the best forwards in the game in Gasol. As a result, Los Angeles quickly turned into a superpower in the West once again and won the fourth NBA title of the past decade.
Along with Pau Gasol, the Lakers have also had some other additions to the team to take the pressure off of Kobe with players like Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom, Ron Artest and the return of Derek Fisher.
Needless to say, the Lakers look like they will be one of the most dominant teams in the league for the foreseeable future.
Even though the Lakers being arguably the best team in the West and have clinched the top spot in the conference for the third straight season, a lot of people have started to question whether or not Kobe Bryant has lost a step in the process.
Over the past three seasons or so, the future hall of fame shooting guard has had to battle multiple injuries all over his body, but has still performed at an extremely high level. Despite being able to fight off these injuries for the last two years without missing any time on the floor, this season was a different story as his ailments turned out to be just too much.
As usual whenever a player of Kobe’s caliber is either in a slump or struggling with some part of his game, the media will have an absolute field day as they will be dissecting every aspect of the player’s life and ability to perform on the floor.
Obviously, Kobe Bryant is known stranger to controversy or media attention as he has dealt with it throughout his entire career, positive and negative, but this is the first time the people have started to say that he is looking old and possibly on the downside of his career.
Despite looking noticeably slower and in pain during the series with the up-and-coming Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round, Kobe Bryant did play well in the last two games and has been able to keep up that momentum in the current series with the Utah Jazz. As of right now, the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers are up 3-0 on the Utah Jazz and are looking like the championship team of old with Kobe Bryant leading the way.
There is no doubt that he is still banged up and will be licking his wounds during the offseason, but he is a warrior and Ironman of the toughest kind. Yes, the Black Mamba is getting older, but no, I don’t see them on the downside of his career just yet as in my opinion he is back to form.