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Kobe Even Better in 2010

Posted by Neil Paine on November 9, 2009

9450747_Lakers_v_HawksToday at ESPN, J.A. Adande wondered if Kobe Bryant is playing better now than ever before, ultimately concluding that if not, then he's doing a pretty darned good approximation of his peak. Well, that's a sentiment I can agree with -- Kobe Bryant is nothing if not mega-consistent, and this year he's defying both the aging curve and the natural complacency you'd expect from someone who just won his 4th title. Take a look at his career numbers, adjusted for pace (after the jump):

Player Ht Wt Pos Year Ag Tm G MP MPG P/40 TS% R/40 A/40 TO/40 ST/40 BK/40 SPM
Kobe Bryant 78 200 G 1997 18 LAL 71 1103 15.5 19.3 54.4 4.7 3.3 4.0 1.8 0.8 -2.04
Kobe Bryant 78 200 G 1998 19 LAL 79 2056 26.0 22.9 54.8 4.5 3.7 2.9 1.4 0.8 1.19
Kobe Bryant 78 200 G 1999 20 LAL 50 1896 37.9 20.4 54.9 5.4 3.9 3.2 1.5 1.0 1.40
Kobe Bryant 78 200 G 2000 21 LAL 66 2524 38.2 23.5 54.6 6.6 5.1 2.9 1.7 1.0 5.36
Kobe Bryant 78 200 G 2001 22 LAL 68 2783 40.9 27.7 55.2 5.7 4.8 3.1 1.6 0.6 5.09
Kobe Bryant 78 200 G 2002 23 LAL 80 3063 38.3 26.0 54.4 5.7 5.6 2.9 1.5 0.5 4.60
Kobe Bryant 78 200 G 2003 24 LAL 82 3401 41.5 28.5 55.0 6.5 5.6 3.3 2.1 0.8 7.67
Kobe Bryant 78 200 G 2004 25 LAL 65 2447 37.6 24.8 55.1 5.7 5.3 2.7 1.8 0.4 6.59
Kobe Bryant 78 200 G 2005 26 LAL 66 2689 40.7 27.1 56.3 5.8 5.9 4.0 1.3 0.8 5.90
Kobe Bryant 78 200 G 2006 27 LAL 80 3277 41.0 34.4 55.9 5.2 4.4 3.0 1.8 0.4 9.65
Kobe Bryant 78 200 G 2007 28 LAL 77 3140 40.8 30.4 58.0 5.5 5.2 3.2 1.4 0.5 7.02
Kobe Bryant 78 200 G 2008 29 LAL 82 3192 38.9 28.1 57.6 6.3 5.3 3.1 1.8 0.5 7.88
Kobe Bryant 78 200 G 2009 30 LAL 82 2960 36.1 28.9 56.1 5.6 5.2 2.8 1.6 0.5 6.57
Kobe Bryant 78 200 G 2010 31 LAL 7 275 39.3 34.5 56.4 5.9 2.6 3.2 2.6 0.3 8.35

What's great about Kobe is that you always know what you're going to get from him, each and every season. Since wresting away "The Man" status from Shaq sometime during the 2002-03 campaign, he has essentially had the same season value-wise every year (aside from 2005, which I think we can give him a pass for since the entire franchise was in disarray). His best season remains 2005-06, when he transcended scoring barriers that we had previously thought unattainable in the modern NBA (given what we know about the slower pace in today's game, there is zero doubt that Bryant's 81 was more impressive as a scoring feat than Chamberlain's 100. Zero.), but how many 31-year-old guards coming off of a championship they had worked single-mindedly towards for the better part of 5 years would come out the following year and be even better?

Obviously it's still quite early in the season, but even so, you have to be impressed with the way Kobe has come out with guns blazing these past few weeks. That L.A. is 6-1 without Pau Gasol, and with only the 14th-best offense in the league (thanks to some uncharacteristic early-season inefficiency from Lamar Odom, Derek Fisher, & Jordan Farmar -- and some characteristic inefficiency from Ron Artest), is a testament to the way Bryant and Andrew Bynum have been playing so far. When everyone else gets acclimated on offense, this team is going to be as scary as any in the NBA (even including the juggernaut Celtics), especially if Kobe continues to have the second-best season of his career in 2010.

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9 Responses to “Kobe Even Better in 2010”

  1. Vic De Zen Says:

    "How many 31-year-old guards coming off of a championship they had worked single-mindedly towards for the better part of 5 years would come out the following year and be even better?"

    Just Kobe, really.

    I'm loving his game so far. He's going to the post! He's going to the post! Hoping he keeps that up when Pau and Bynum returns, he can DOMINATE down there. This team could be amazing, especially if Artest is kept in check on offense.

  2. Anon Says:

    Whoa, hold on Neil...I thought you were nothing but a "Kobe hater"! No way!!! You ALWAYS diss Kobe! What are you doing writing THIS article??? This CAN'T be you, are you some kind of a Neil impostor???

    Lol :) Great read.

  3. Neil Paine Says:

    A Neil impostor, eh? You mean like this guy?

  4. Walter Says:

    Great article Neil. As a Lakers fan I feel blessed to be able to watch a player like Kobe the last 10+ years. However, once Gasol and Bynum come back Kobe's numbers will fall back down to his consistent levels of the past. I am not taking a shot at Kobe for it as it does speak to his willingness to take on whatever is needed of him.
    I recall an article (I wish I had the link to it), in which someone analyzed a large sample of Kobe's games to see if he was necessarily a "ball hog". The results were interesting in that Kobe usually picked up his aggressiveness when the other team went on a run and/or his team seemed stagnant. However, when his teammates were contributing and playing well Kobe took far fewer shots and deferred to them. I think we are seeing that again right now as Kobe is taking a ton of shots (albeit hitting them efficiently) because without Bynum and Gasol the Lakers offense isn't nearly as potent and thus needs the "Mamba's" best strike.

    On a side note, while Kobe will never be what Jordan was in his peak (Jordan was ridiculous!), Kobe's career may be just as impressive as Jordan's when all is said and done due to the length of years in which Kobe consistently played at a top 5 (if not top 3) level.

  5. Jason J Says:

    This is a nice article and speaks to the greatness of Bryant. He's been the best guard in the league for just about a decade now, and he works tirelessly on his game in the off-season. I was so impressed that he took the time to pick Hakeem's brain. The guy's work ethic is just unbelievable.

  6. Kirk C Says:

    Neil, all we need now is your admission that Kobe is the best player in the league! I saw Matt Moore's mea culpa earlier! That made make my day!

    GO LAKERS!

  7. P Middy Says:

    The difference in MPG is pretty severe from 08-09 to 09-00 so far. Not a good thing if you're the Lakers. You need Gasol back in there before too long. It's impressive that Kobe can do this, but not a great sign that he has to.

  8. matuldi klinsmann Says:

    Neil :))

    This can't be you now can it?BR has been hacked I guess :)

    Kobe is the most consistently complete package since MJ.As a topping to the cake he has been doing this with MJ like grace,fundamental,flair and finesse which explains the hatred he has been getting from anywhere and everywhere..I have been reading guys here trying to compare him Manu/Pierce etc whom I think really outstanding players as well.But come on people don't be jealous and try to juxtapose too much advanced metrics please..

    Anyways an objective Kobe piece is always appreciated.

    Thank you:)

  9. Travis Says:

    "I was so impressed that he took the time to pick Hakeem's brain."

    Not to nitpick, as Kobe is a great player and probably does have a great work ethic, but Kobe spent all of two hours with Hakeem in the offseason. It's not as if he lived at the guy's house and practiced with him eight hours a day all summer.