By Haz Bey
After dropping 48 points on the Phoenix Suns earlier this season at Staples Center, Kobe Bryant said at his post game press conference,"Not bad for the 7th best player in the league". Kobe was referring to the ESPN Player Power Rankings that had Kobe as the 7th best player in the league. Really, I mean really. The Black Mamba entered his 16th season playing with a ligament tear on his right wrist, you know his shooting hand, and yet Kobe is 2nd to only LeBron James in the league in scoring with almost all season long. Not to mention the 5 rings, 2 Finals MVPs, 1 regular season MVP, 14 All-Star appearances, 4 All-star MVPs, 9 All NBA 1st team selections, 9 NBA All-Defensive teams selections, 2 scoring titles & countless game winning shots throughout his career, I dare anybody out there to find an active player today that has a resume similar to the Black Mamba's. Yes I agree there is a lot of miles on his engine. Not just the 16 seasons, but the deep playoff runs have all taken its toll on Kobe's body, but he continues to play through injury after injury and doing it at a extremely high level.
Kobe with no doubt is still the best player the NBA right now and it will take someone reach the level of excellence that Kobe has displayed year-in and year-out. The first name that comes to mind that should have already eclipsed Kobe is LeBron James. LeBron career averages of 27, 7 & 7 plus the back-to-back MVPs suggest that he would be the front runner to own the league, but the lack of playoff success doesn't put him in a class with Kobe Bryant. Then there is LeBron's teammate Dwyane Wade. We all seen D-Wade get it done against the Mavs in the 2006 Finals, but what has he really done since then. 5 All-Star appearances with an All-Star MVP and 1 deep playoff run. D-Wade is an elite player, but he doesn't have the offensive arsenal that Kobe possesses. Kobe has a deadly mid-range game and he can hit shots far beyond the 3 point line. D-Wade has a decent mid-range game, but he is more of a player that is most effective when he can drive to the basket. How about Kevin Durant? He has led the league in scoring the last 2 seasons and seems to make clutch shots. A huge upside and may actually own this league for years to come if he can win a title this year or the next, but defensively he is still very pedestrian. Kobe made the All NBA Defensive 1st Team 9 times. Tied with Michael Jordan and Gary Payton for the most all time. Last but not least there is reigning league MVP Derrick Rose. Look the guy is a bad man. He takes no prisoners on the court. He has expanded his range to the point that he is now a deadly 3 point shooter and he has cut down his scoring which has brought his assist up to help his team improve on last year's success. There is not too many weaknesses in his game. If he can get a title this year playing at the level he is, then he would be my top candidate to take the mantle of "Best Player in the League" away from Kobe Bryant, but time will tell.
Kobe Bryant deserves the respect of the league, the media & the public to give him the benefit of the doubt. Just because we seen him play for 16 seasons and we all notice his athletic decline does not mean he can not play at a very high level. We all get caught up with the "Next Best Thing" instead of realizing that someone like Kobe Bryant comes around once in a life time. You don't have to like him, this isn't a popularity contest, but you can not discredit his accomplishments. So until someone else emerges to be the undisputed best player in the league, give Kobe his due. He is still the best player in the league whether you like it or not.