So much uncertainty surrounds Kobe Bryant these days.
When will his torn left Achilles tendon fully heal? How will Bryant look when he returns to the basketball court? To what degree will Bryant change his game? To what degree will Bryant reduce his scoring load and become a facilitator?
All tough questions that remain uneasy to answer both because of Bryant’s ridiculous skillset and the severity of his injury. But it’s clear that NBA2K14 has faith in the Black Mamba. The video game ranks Bryant tied for third best in the NBA with Clippers guard Chris Paul with a 93 overall rating. And while some Lakers fans scoff at anything that doesn’t pit Bryant as No. 1, his place behind Miami’s LeBron James (99) and Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant (94) speaks both to Bryant’s longevity and strong track record in overcoming so many injuries.
NBA2K, which will be released on Oct. 1, based its score on Bryant based on his offense in the post (A), offense behind the perimeter (A-), perimeter defense (B+), post defense (C), ball handling (A), rebounding (D+), IQ (A) and athleticism (B+). Had Bryant not gotten injured, one could argue Bryant’s athleticism would’ve earned A and a ranking ahead of Paul.
The NBA2K franchise gave Bryant the same ranking last year behind James, Durant and Paul, a revelation that still speaks to their optimism this season that Bryant will remain the same effective player. I recently tried out this year’s game where I played as the Lakers against a friend who played as the New York Knicks. The Lakers’ eight-point loss in the game may reflect both the team’s defensively deficient roster and my poor gaming skills. But it was clear Bryant showed few limitations.
In the game, Bryant scored eight consecutive third-quarter points on a series of baseline and mid-range jumper. Bryant even threw down a two-handed dunk after seeing an opening through the lane. For good measure, he also nailed an elbow jumper just before time expired at the end of the third quarter through two defenders. Bryant’s speed didn’t appear noticeably slow. And he showed strong effort on defense.
Add it all up, and the NBA2K franchise still considers Bryant better than Chicago’s Derrick Rose (92), New York’s Carmelo Anthony (91), Houston’s Dwight Howard (91) and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook (91). It’s also clear that NBA2K remains more confident Bryant can overcome his Achilles injury better than perhaps Rose (ACL) and Westbrook (torn meniscus in right knee) will with theirs.
The Lakers have confidence in Bryant, too. After all, they’ve seen Bryant pull this feat plenty of times. But Bryant’s entering such uncharted territory that nothing, including a video game’s rankings, can truly predict how this will all play out.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org