Though the 2012-13 season ended in a tragic manner for this NBA legend, Kobe Bryant had a historic season for a 17-year veteran and was phenomenal for the floundering Los Angeles Lakers, averaging 27.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 6.0 assists while shooting 46.3% from the field which was his highest clip since the 2008-09 season.
He also became the youngest player in NBA history (34 years, 104 days) to score 30,000 points for his career and after passing Wilt Chamberlain is now fourth on the all-time scoring list with 31,617 points. Assuming he has a smooth recovery from his torn Achilles, he is in striking distance of Michael Jordan for third on the all-time NBA scoring list needing 675 points to pass the man he is tirelessly compared to.
This was also a great season for Bryant in the court of public opinion as well. While he is still a polarizing player, the perception of the Black Mamba amongst fans has swung more into the Pro-Bryant side with his highly entertaining tweeting and his torn Achilles showing his mortality. If you truly respect the game, you hate to see a man who has done so much for the NBA go out on an injury like this.
While the 2012-13 season did not go the way anyone expected for the Lakers, it is impossible to dismiss the type of year Bryant had. Kobe was the one constant the Lakers could rely on this season, with various injuries plaguing Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol it was Bryant who kept the Lakers afloat and in playoff contention (as sad as that sounds). Without Kobe’s play, the Lakers would have been a lottery team and completely missed the playoffs.
Bryant’s role changed substantially throughout the season as well. As the face of the Los Angeles Lakers and still playing at a high level, it was expected that Kobe would be the primary scorer for this team even with the additions of Howard and Nash. For the Lakers to succeed however, Bryant had to draw more on his play making abilities and create for his teammates.
In the 24 games after the All-Star break and Kobe’s 15th selection to the Western Conference team, Kobe did just that dishing out 7.0 assists while still being a deadly scorer averaging 28.5 points in this stretch.
Despite his offensive brilliance, Bryant’s defense clearly suffered and this was the worst I had ever seen him defend at any point of his career. While Kobe still has the capacity to be a strong on the ball defender, his off the ball defense and ball watching often led to his assignment getting easy baskets.
It is possible shouldering so much of the offensive load for the Lakers led to Bryant’s poor defense (by his standards) but this man has historically been an accomplished defender, having been a nine-time member of the All-NBA Defensive Team. I also feel an over-reliance on Dwight Howard’s defensive reputation led to laziness from the guards on letting their man get past them expecting for Howard to clean up the mess in the paint.
Overall, Bryant had a fantastic season individually. With a drive that separates him from any other athlete of his time, I expect Kobe to do his due diligence in returning to his All-NBA form sooner rather than later.