He may adorn the latest cover of Sports Illustrated and leave the Lakers forever captivated with championships, game-winning shots and a never-ending desire to play through anything.
But that’s not enough for Kobe Bryant to rank among the best NBA players, according to ESPN’s #NBARank system. Heck, it’s not even enough for Bryant to land in the Top 5. Top 10. Or Top 20.
Nope, the man that became last season the first 34-year-old veteran in NBA history to average 27.3 points per game has dropped to No. 25. If Bryant showed offense to a panel of ESPN writers voting the Lakers 12th out of 15 Western Conference teams, one can only imagine how the latest slight will will fuel his hard-running engine.
Of course, Bryant’s rank reflects the uncertainty on how and when he will fully recover from his left Achilles tendon. No one on the Lakers, including Bryant himself, has provided any clarity on his return date. Bryant has also stressed patience with that process, saying he’s more consumed with playing at full strength than returning sooner than expected. It also reflects the fact that the results stem from a panel of 215 writers and broadcasters that contribute toward ESPN’s NBA coverage, making it possible that player rankings are determined by a mere fraction of a point.
Even on the worst case scenario that Bryant no longer has the same explosiveness and athleticism that enabled him to play last seas as if he was in his prime, he still has strong fundamentals in footwork, playmaking, shooting stroke and unmatched confidence still to stay in the conversation. Oh, and Bryant has plenty of motivation, too, the latest involving his ranking among other NBA players.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org