Courtesy of www.sportable.com
This past Thursday, I was casually enjoying a couple of hours between work and classes with my usual dose of ESPN’s morning debate shows: “First Take” and “Numbers Never Lie.” As usual, topics such as trade rumors, NFL game day predictions, and NBA preseason talk was being discussed when suddenly I heard it…. one of the top five ALL TIME blasphemous news stories that have ever reached my ears.
What I heard was that Kobe Bryant, aka “The Black Mamba” — fresh from two consecutive Achilles injuries that kept him sidelined for the majority of the past two NBA seasons— was ranked as the 40th best player in the ESPN.com NBA player rankings for the fast-approaching 2014-2015 season.
Yes, 40th. That is no typo. Bryant, the former NBA MVP, 5-time NBA champion, 2-time Finals MVP, 16-time all star, 11-time All NBA player. I’m not here to praise Bryant’s resume (as much as I want to). I’m here to talk about how absolutely ridiculous it is that ESPN thinks that there are 39 players out there today who are more skillful and overall more valuable than Kobe.
I am well aware that Bryant recently came out of recovery from Achilles surgery and a broken Achilles tendon this past season, one of the most devastating injuries a professional basketball player can receive. Many skeptics will point out that he is getting older. At the age of 36, he has the burden of carrying with him the many injuries that have plagued him throughout his historic 18 years in the NBA. Fans of Kobe will readily accept and support his 40th best player ranking as tough but fair considering all the skilled young talent that is in the NBA today. They will without hesitation say that Bryant’s traditional box office statistics will take a significant plunder due to the middle-of-the-pack type of stats in today’s NBA. Normally, these would all be fair claims about a former 36 year old superstar recovering from two consecutive Achilles injuries. The only problem is that this superstar is the Black Mamba. The closest resemblance to unrivaled dominance of basketball we’ve witnessed since Jordan. A player, who at age 36, is still by far the mentally toughest player in today’s game. A player who I predict will surprise all his doubters.
You simply do not rank Kobe Bryant 40th. Name me 39 players in today’s NBA who are better; better yet, guess who is ranked 39th? Andre Iguodala. He plays for the Golden State Warriors. The casual basketball or general sports fans reading this have no idea who this player is. Yes, he is ranked higher than Kobe Bryant. Preposterous.
Thankfully, there is some good news that can be taken from ESPN.com. Bryant can turn ANYTHING into motivation. Most thought he would never win another title without Shaquille O’Neal. He went ahead and won two more without him, ultimately winning Finals MVP in each of those championship runs. He is a player that has been historically un-guardable by ANY player he’s faced. This 40th best player ranking will only add fuel to the fire that seems to be always continually lit within Bryant. While he may not have the explosiveness he once had early in his career, but he still possesses that killer instinct and silky jump shot that is nearly unstoppable.
The Black Mamba will prove that he is still among the league’s top 10 players even at age 36. I predict he will average at least 24 points per contest despite a limited supporting cast.
Just give Bryant 15 games into the season. This ESPN.com player ranking will change in time.