How the mighty have fallen. At least in the eyes of ESPN, who reckon Kobe Bryant is the 93rd best player in the league, as revealed in their latest pre-season Top 400 Players list.
Last year, they ranked Kobe as the 40th best player. A year before that, when Kobe was coming off a career-threatening Achilles injury, they were generous enough to rank him 25th.
During the past three seasons, Kobe managed to play only 119 games out of a maximum 246. Between major injuries and a mediocre supporting cast, Bryant’s efficiency has crumbled, too, shooting just 37% from the field and 29% from deep last year, while also playing average defense.
Soon after the Lakers’ preseason loss to Toronto Raptors, Kobe was asked about the issue. “Please don’t ask me about silly stuff like that,” the Laker legend said. He went on to add that these rankings don’t define his legacy. “I don’t need to defend that. Nobody does really.”
Last year, Kobe called ESPN “a bunch of idiots” when he was ranked 40. “I’ve known for a long time (that) they’re a bunch of idiots,” the legend said last October.
As what has become an annual affair, there is uproar in Los Angeles, and pundits such as Steph A Smith feel the ranking is disrespectful to the all-time great. “Even at age 37, Kobe Bryant – if healthy – can top most guys in the league. Anybody who understands the game of basketball would agree (with me) that you can’t find 92 better players on the planet. I work for ESPN too, but I want to dissociate myself from these rankings. ESPN should be embarrassed of itself to put something like this out there,” Smith said.
“This is just beyond blasphemy to me. I understand that Kobe has been hurt in recent years. I understand that he is aged. I understand that it’s fun (for people making these rankings). I’m sorry but,” said an outraged Smith.
Kobe Bryant on being No. 93 in ESPN's 2015-16 #NBArank: "Please don't ask me about silly stuff like that."
— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) October 9, 2015