Kobe Bryant is, undoubtedly, one of the greatest basketball players to walk planet earth. He’s a 17 time all-star, former MVP, and has won five NBA championships, all leading to Bryant earning a spot in the conversation of who the greatest of all time is. For God’s sake, this is a guy who dropped 81 points in a game.
There’s almost a myth around Kobe at this point after all of his success. From his kind of depressing quote about not having friends to him saying he’d go 0-30 before he’d go 0-9 (which is realistic at this point, but we’ll get to that later), Bean has gone from a wannabe Michael Jordan and, particularly in the past few years, has evolved into his own special type of borderline-crazy-intense superstar.
As fun as seeing Kobe finally seem more comfortable in his own shoes has been, it’s also been somewhat easy to mock. Over the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 seasons, Bryant played in a grand total of 41 games, shooting just 40% on FGA and 24% on 3PA. Oh, and he’s shooting about 16 times a game while averaging 20 a night and turning it over 5 times per game (stats via Basketball Reference).
But hey, Kobe is still Kobe, and does deserve some leash to play. I mean, this is one of the great players to ever step on a court, and while the results may not always be pretty, the Lakers seemed pretty content to let their aging superstar ride out his career however he may choose.
After last nights opening performance, that might change.
In a 112-111 loss to the Timberwolves that saw the Lakers choke away a 16 point lead late in the second half, Kobe shot the ball 24 times, more than Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russel, and Roy Hibbert combined.
Which is fine is he knocks down, say, 10 of those shots on the way to a particularly big scoring night. The problem is, they just weren’t dropping. Kobe made just 8 of the 24 shots and went 3-for-13 from behind the arc. That’s not good.
Again though, maybe it wasn’t so much bad shot selection, but just a poor shooting night. Everyone has them, right?
Well, when 12 of the 24 shots come with a defender at most 3-feet away, it pretty much means that half of Kobe’s total shots were relatively well contested. That’s not good.
But this is Kobe Bryant, supposedly one of the most clutch athletes in history. This is a man that was born with not one, but two fake clutch-genes for Skip Bayless to salivate over. When the game is on the line, he’s going to step up for the Lakers and carry them to victory, right?
In the fourth quarter, the Black Mamba went 0-5 and watched his Lakers, who had been up by as much as eight in the quarter, squandered away the first game of the season. That’s not good.
Are you sensing a theme here?
Kobe Bryant is not changing. He’s still shooting about 20 times a game, even entering his 20th season in the NBA and he’s still hauling up bad shots even with talented young players like Randle, Russell, and Jordan Clarkson now on the Lakers.
Obviously, the dream would be for Bryant to make the changes that Paul Pierce did in 2007-2008. Pierce went from shooting 18 times a night all the way down to 14 to make room for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. While his PPG did drop by about five, the change in attitude into a team-first player that was willing to give up shots was a huge reason for the Celtics success that season.
Obviously, Randle and Russel are not Garnett and Allen, but you see the point. In order to let these two young, budding players fully blossom and reach their potential, Bryant has to change his shooting habits if he wants to even sniff the playoffs again.
For one, lowering his FGA per game from about 20, where it’s been mostly his entire career, down just a few shots per game. He can still take over late in games because, while he struggled on Wednesday night, he is still an incredible player down the stretch and amongst the most trusted players in the league with the game on the line.
All I’m saying is that with just a few less shot attempts in the first three quarters, Bryant would be able to save his leg energy for late game situations, maybe even avoiding injury in the process.
You don’t want Kobe to be Rajon Rondo and look afraid to take shots obviously, but just ask the Knicks how they feel about ball movement after last nights dominant season opener.
PLEASE change just a little Kobe, because this season might be your last and it’s off to a sad start.
(All statistics courtesy of ShotAnalytics.com, ESPN, and Basketball Reference)
Sean Linhares is a Sports Communication student at West Virginia University. He is originally from Pine Bush, New York but don’t Google that because you might not like him anymore (it wasn’t him, though. We checked). He enjoys Five Guys, McDonalds, and Shake Shack but not in that order (but not-not all at once).