Kobe Bryant is arguably the most popular American athlete since Michael Jordan. Bryant, with five NBA championships, will go down as an all-time great and perhaps the greatest of his generation.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers. If you’re someone who appreciates the game of basketball, it must be really disheartening to see the greatness of Bryant reduced to an enduring disaster, which is his 20th and most probably final NBA season. In three games thus far, the Laker has shot 31 percent from the field, aside from 20 from beyond the arc. He hasn’t played any substantial defense either. This isn’t the Kobe the world has been accustomed to for the last 20 years.
Bryant was feared by oppositions for his killer instinct, that never-say-die attitude which propelled him to make countless clutch shots over the course of his illustrious career. One would have thought that despite Bryant’s recurring struggles, the legend would say positive things to keep his morale high.
The sad truth is that Bryant has given up. And it’s depressing. On Monday, after the Lakers were routed by Dallas Mavericks, Bryant said, “I’m the 200th-best player in the league right now,” before emphatically adding, “I freaking suck.”
Jordan struggled in his final years with the Washington Wizards, too, but he wasn’t battling injuries like Bryant has for the last few years. “I just can’t make a shot,” said Bryant. Prior to the season, ESPN had ranked Bryant No 93 in its annual list of players.
Byron Scott, the Lakers head coach, had no answers for Bryant’s struggles. “I don’t know. I know he’s not happy with it. He’s disappointed with the way he’s shooting the ball. He’s playing hard. He’s competing just like he always does. I think it’s a matter of time.”
Bryant is the first player in NBA history to represent the same team for 20 years. Despite the shambolic state of affairs, fans in Los Angeles will always hold Bryant in high regard. But it is perhaps time for Bryant to take a backseat, maybe come off the bench, and allow the youngsters to take over.