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How will Kobe do when his body starts failing him?


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#1 MDI

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Posted May 19, 2011 - 12:17 PM

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He is, in any other world but the one he has owned the past two decades, a young man. Thirty-two years old. Strong. Wealthy. And entering the stage of life where what's behind you finally feels solid and safe.

In any other world but the NBA, Kobe Bryant's life would be about to take off.

But with 15 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers and more than 40,000 minutes already recorded on his odometer, he's instead reached the point in his career where he might begin to drop off.

In perhaps the most telling sign yet of his personal growth and maturity, it is a reality he no longer rages at or denies.

He is older. His game has changed as his body has aged. All those battles have left scars.


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Acceptance, however, is another matter.
"What I think about is shutting up those MF's saying I'm done," he said last week after his season-ending exit interview with general manager Mitch Kupchak and departing coach Phil Jackson.

"Last summer I really didn't do anything because of the surgery [on my knee], so I came in this season already with a weak leg and having to go through a season trying to get it stronger while playing.

"Next season will be different. I'll have this whole offseason to kind of get strong. … There's a difference between feeling healthy and feeling as strong as I know I can be. I feel like I could do everything I wanted to do. But there's another level I feel like I can get to."

So instead of resting this summer, he plans to run. To grind as only he can. To push himself harder and farther so that he might squeeze another few years of elite play out of a body that could cruelly betray him at any moment.

In life, there are formulas for prognosticating just how much longer a person might live and actuaries who make a lot of money for being good at that skill.

In the NBA, there is only experience and intuition. A best guess, and sometimes just a hope.

For the Lakers, the stakes could not be higher.

Their championship window likely stays open only as long as Bryant's does. Which makes forecasting the number of elite seasons he has left the most important question facing the franchise over the next few seasons.


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Financially, that decision has already been made. Bryant is signed for $83.5 million over the next three seasons.

Spiritually, the decision still looms.

"I know a lot of people who think next year is his last year at this level," said one former NBA head coach, who has competed against Bryant many times but never coached him. "But I think he'll give them at least two more because he's such a prideful man.

"The thing with Kobe is that he can be his own worst enemy because he has so much pride, so much confidence in himself, he may not realize when he's lost too much."

In the sports world, it is a drama that plays out bitterly more often than it ends well.

Grace, for the greats, is rare in the end.

Earlier this week in New York, the last days of 39-year-old Yankees catcher Jorge Posada's great career took an inglorious turn as he asked out of the lineup an hour before a game in which he'd been dropped to ninth in the batting order.


Already this year, Posada had been asked to swallow the lesser role of designated hitter. And already he'd chafed at the organization's treatment of what remained of its championship core: Posada, shortstop Derek Jeter and closer Mariano Rivera.

This final affront, manager Joe Girardi's decision to bat him ninth without so much as a heads-up before the lineup was posted, was too much too bear.

While Bryant and the Lakers seem a long way off from that kind of ending, it is a chilling reminder of how quickly a once-fruitful relationship can rot if it is not managed well.

The challenge for both Bryant and the Lakers is to be as honest as they are vigilant in looking for signs of decline, and then adjusting to them.

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"Only [Bryant] can be the judge of that," longtime Lakers assistant coach Frank Hamblen said of Bryant's physical self-assessments. "But he's pretty attuned to his body. He knows what it's all about and he takes very good care of himself.
"Phil [Jackson] was great at communicating with Kobe in this regard. They always came to a meeting point.

"Whoever the new coach is will have to come to a point where they can sit down and talk about it too, 'What's best for the team and what's best for Kobe.'"

While others outside the organization suspect Bryant will struggle and grow frustrated as he ages and his athleticism dulls, Hamblen said that Bryant's attitude and behavior the past few seasons has made him more optimistic.

"His demise, if we can even say that, will be a lot further down the road than most people think because of how hard he works in the offseason, and how he's already adjusted his game," Hamblen said.


"He's one of those guys that's a real student of the game. He knows the deal and what happens to your body. He's studied how all the great players adjusted their games, and I believe he'll do that, too."

Already, Hamblen said, Bryant has improved his shooting and post-up game to compensate for his diminishing ability to drive to the basket and finish at the rim.

Bryant has averaged just 7.1 free throw attempts per game the last three seasons, well off the 10.2 attempts he averaged in 2005-06 when he led the NBA in scoring, and slightly below his career average of 7.6 free throw attempts a game.

His shooting percentage over the last three years has remained a robust 45.9 percent (above his career 45.4 percent average) despite more of a reliance on jump shots.

By comparison, Michael Jordan --the player Bryant will always be measured against -- got to the line just 4.6 times a game in his final two seasons (2000-01, 2001-02) after averaging 8.2 free throw attempts over his career.

Although Jordan turned 40 during his final season with the Washington Wizards, those last two seasons were his 14th and 15th overall.

"By the end of his career, Michael had lost that athleticism and he couldn't post guys up like he used to," the former NBA coach said. "Once you lose that athletic skill level, it scares you.

"It scares you and it makes you angry. Kobe's not there yet. At some point he will struggle with that; he'll get frustrated and angry, too.


"But he's not there yet. Next year I think he'll come back with a vengeance and bust some people."

Bryant will be 33 by the beginning of next season. A young man in every other world but the one he has spent a lifetime conquering.

He sits home now, after the Lakers' early exit, watching younger men compete on the stage he owned as recently as last season.

His stage is still set for another few years.

The question is whether he will leave it well one day.


Edited by MDI, May 19, 2011 - 12:21 PM.

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Props to sidthekid871


#2 Hero

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Posted May 19, 2011 - 12:43 PM

Haunting, but true.

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#3 True Lakers Fan

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Posted May 19, 2011 - 12:49 PM

very true I think he has 2 good yrs left tho maybe 3 depending how long this lockout is

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#4 MAMBA24ILL

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Posted May 19, 2011 - 12:52 PM

I've always feared Kobe's competitive drive will betray him at the end of his career.

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#5 Anautikus

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Posted May 19, 2011 - 01:03 PM

It's a looming thing; it's gonna happen before we know it. A Kobe-less league...*sigh I'll never be ready. :no:

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#6 Air Apparent

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Posted May 19, 2011 - 01:09 PM

if andre miller can still be effective with his post up game, kobe will have no trouble

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#7 gque24

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Posted May 19, 2011 - 01:25 PM

His body has failed him last 2 years and you still see no difference in ON COURT USUAL PRODUCTION = 25,5,5 routinely for his career.
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#8 UKUGA

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Posted May 19, 2011 - 01:28 PM

Dirk is 32.

By the way, we've read Kobe obituaries before.

I just hope he goes out on his own terms, and not with a blown out knee, ruptured achilles, etc.

Edited by UKUGA, May 19, 2011 - 01:28 PM.

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#9 RayRay

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Posted May 19, 2011 - 03:27 PM

Dirk is 32.

By the way, we've read Kobe obituaries before.

I just hope he goes out on his own terms, and not with a blown out knee, ruptured achilles, etc.


compare Dirks minutes to Kobes tho
only Kobe can stop Kobe.

#10 LakersGAFan

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Posted May 19, 2011 - 03:40 PM

I actually think Kobe will be stronger next season with a shortend post season and a full off season to rehab the knee.
His hands may never recover but hes got one of the best trainers in the world to combat arthritis.
The question is will any new nagging injuries begin to surface. But I think his knee will be fully mended and back to full strength which will help KB's latteral movement and elevation.

#11 b.e.

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Posted May 19, 2011 - 03:50 PM

Dirk is 32.

By the way, we've read Kobe obituaries before.

I just hope he goes out on his own terms, and not with a blown out knee, ruptured achilles, etc.

In no way are their bodies the same, or their styles of play the same for that matter. Them being the same age means nothing lol
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#12 MDI

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Posted May 19, 2011 - 04:03 PM

Someone from CL said it best


They could start with finally playing him with a capable backcourt partner. No offense to Fisher but Kobe has had to do 2 jobs for a good 12 years now and it cant happen anymore.


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Props to sidthekid871


#13 True Lakers Fan

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Posted May 19, 2011 - 04:22 PM

Someone from CL said it best


Agreed but to be fair the Triangle don't need a dominant PG tho thats why Fish Excelled in his Career if Fish wasn't in the system he wouldl struggled imo

Edited by True Lakers Fan, May 19, 2011 - 04:23 PM.

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#14 last stand 2.0

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Posted May 19, 2011 - 04:30 PM

My bold prediction is Kobe shoots 50% next season for the first time in his career becoming a post player and mid range shooter almost exclusively with a new facilitator and penetrator handling those duties
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#15 b.e.

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Posted May 19, 2011 - 05:04 PM

Someone from CL said it best

Not fair to Fish at all.
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#16 UKUGA

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Posted May 19, 2011 - 06:23 PM

In no way are their bodies the same, or their styles of play the same for that matter. Them being the same age means nothing lol



The point is that Dirk is older than Kobe, and now looks better than ever.

Kobe knows what he can and can't do. He still has the best footwork in the game, and even though he's smaller than Dirk, he can still use his footwork and remaining athleticism (which is is still pretty good) to free himself up to shoot.


It's about modifying style, and not focusing solely on what a player has left.

How old is Jason Kidd? Is he done? He use to be the best fast break PG in the NBA. Now, he plays more of a steady floor game.

If you think Dirk hasn't modified his style as he's gotten older, you haven't paid attention.

Kobe can modify his game to suit his declining athleticism.

And, even with all this talk about what Kobe is losing, he still had better hops this season than he did last year. He could realistically be even stronger next season, with all the things that have been discussed ad nauseum over the last few weeks.

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#17 UKUGA

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Posted May 19, 2011 - 06:24 PM

compare Dirks minutes to Kobes tho


It's not just about minutes. The point is that Dirk has improved his game as he's gotten into his 30s.

Kobe is now at a point where he has to modify his, most likely. Don't think he can't, just because his athleticism is declining.

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#18 b.e.

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Posted May 19, 2011 - 06:38 PM

The point is that Dirk is older than Kobe, and now looks better than ever.

Kobe knows what he can and can't do. He still has the best footwork in the game, and even though he's smaller than Dirk, he can still use his footwork and remaining athleticism (which is is still pretty good) to free himself up to shoot.


It's about modifying style, and not focusing solely on what a player has left.

How old is Jason Kidd? Is he done? He use to be the best fast break PG in the NBA. Now, he plays more of a steady floor game.

If you think Dirk hasn't modified his style as he's gotten older, you haven't paid attention.

Kobe can modify his game to suit his declining athleticism.

And, even with all this talk about what Kobe is losing, he still had better hops this season than he did last year. He could realistically be even stronger next season, with all the things that have been discussed ad nauseum over the last few weeks.


I feel like it was much easier for Dirk to enhance his game late in his career because of the way he plays. He doesnt take a beating on defense (because he plays none lol), and is bigger so he can absorb more contact. Less harm on the body. His pure jumpshot is, lets face it, better than kobe's at this point. But thats because he gets a majority of his points that way. He also has slashers on his team to leave him wide open for 3. There is a reason Dirk at 32 is looking better than Kobe at 32.
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#19 Draztik

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Posted May 19, 2011 - 06:43 PM

Kobe's post game & great footwork will keep him at a elite level longer than most expect


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#20 UKUGA

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Posted May 19, 2011 - 07:01 PM

I feel like it was much easier for Dirk to enhance his game late in his career because of the way he plays. He doesnt take a beating on defense (because he plays none lol), and is bigger so he can absorb more contact. Less harm on the body. His pure jumpshot is, lets face it, better than kobe's at this point. But thats because he gets a majority of his points that way. He also has slashers on his team to leave him wide open for 3. There is a reason Dirk at 32 is looking better than Kobe at 32.



Which is all well and good.

But, Dirk is still 32, and will be 33 next month. He's been playing in the NBA since he was about 20. It's not as if the minutes he's played haven't impacted him at all.

You are correct that it's easier for Dirk to play his style, but when you really break it down, he still uses wonderful footwork to free up space and shoot over defenders.

Kobe can do a lot of the same things. Meanwhile, he is still more athletic than Dirk and is not a shabby shooter.

People are having a field day with Kobe right now, largely because the team failed to execute well down the stretch and got swept in RD 2.

Give this team and Kobe and off-season to rest, re-group and recuperate, and watch Kobe come back strong next year.

He isn't just going to magically drop off. He is still one of the handful of most skilled players in the game, and over the next 3-4 seasons will look to fine tune his game in a way that he can maximize his skill-set and athleticism.

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