Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Does Kobe get better with age?
Hello there. The other day I was lying in my bed, looking at the collages that cover most of the walls of my room. No, this author is not much of an artist, but when I was in high school, I passed a great deal of time that should have been spent completing homework by stapling pictures of all my favorite sports stars to the walls of my room.
I enjoy looking at my walls these days because they display a wealth of basketball/sports history. Almost all the pictures are from a very short time period, so there's a great frozen-moment effect; I can see pictures of Peter Warrick on Florida State, Randy Moss standing with Randall Cunningham, and Ken Griffey, Jr., in all his glory.
When I lay in my bed, looking at my wall, I noticed a picture of Kobe Bryant standing next to Shareef Abdur Rahim. I remembered that the picture was taken from SLAM magazine, when both men were rookies. I thought about it for a second. Shareef Abdur Rahim was a rookie the same year that Kobe Bryant was. Wow.
It's an amazing testament to Kobe's greatness. Granted, he's two years younger than Shareef, but let's look at the notable players from that '96 draft:
(Number denotes pick #)
1. Allen Iverson (Getting old before our eyes, albeit long after I thought he would.)
2. Marcus Camby (Got old after leaving Knicks.)
3. Shareef (Got old when he went to the Blazers.)
4. Stephon Marbury (Got old last year.)
5. Ray Allen (In a career year, severely injured. TBD.)
6. Antoine Walker (Got old after Dallas.)
8. Kerry Kittles (Got old after his 32nd operation.)
10. Erick Dampier (Got old after he was drafted.)
13. Kobe Bryant (not old)
14. Predrag Stojakovic (Got old the season before last.)
15. Steve Nash (Got old when he started to bald.)
17. Jermaine O'Neal (Got old after Detroit fight/injuries.)
20. Zydrunas Ilgauskas (Born old.)
26. Jerome Williams (Got old inexplicably. Almost as if in time machine.)
30. Othella Harrington (Got old after being traded from Grizzlies [the "Rahim"].
33. Moochie Norris (Got old after traded from Rockets.)
37. Jeff McInnis (Got old after traded to Nets.)
54. Shandon Anderson (Got old after traded to Knicks.)
(By the way, what an unbelievable draft.)
I don't know how to explain it, but I'm pretty sure I'm not alone when I say that it feels like Kobe's about a 6-7 year veteran. He's only six years younger than Shaq, though. He's older than Larry Hughes and Al Harrington, both of whom have witnessed their physical skills decline precipitously. Kobe's right at the age where most stars, even of the highest caliber, enter their decline, and he's playing as well as he ever has. It's amazing.
For some reason, this got me thinking about how great Kobe is for the first time. I've never been terribly impressed by the guy (and I only say that in historic terms; it's clear he's in the top two of players in today's league), but his incorrigibility resonated with me a lot. So, just for the heck of it, I checked the statistics of my main man, Michael Jordan.
That's when I realized that Jordan was six years older than Kobe when he averaged 28.7 points per game, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.8 assists on the 62-20 Bulls Championship team that captivated the nation. He was easily the best athlete and scorer in the league, even at age 34.
I recently read an article on ESPN about how Kobe's recent string of high-scoring outings proves that he's a better player than Jordan. Of course, that is nonsense. Witnessing the amazing skill and athleticism Jordan retained as he aged just confirms for me what an incredible player he was, and how much further Kobe has to go to achieve Jordan's greatness. Kobe is a specimen for the ages, no doubt, but he's still not worthy of being considered the equal of Julius Erving, Michael Jordan, Jerry West, Rick Barry, Magic Johnson or Oscar Robertson in the pantheon of great guards.
That's all I've got. E-mail me, as always, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted by Jimmy at 1:55 PM