By Addam Francisco
As many may know, Kobe Bryant is in the midst of his final season as a professional basketball player which has ended up being the main headline for the NBA this year, with understanding. With his team making an appearance in a smaller market like Oklahoma City, fans from across the state packed the arena to see him play in what could be his last game in OKC. However, at 2:30 p.m. just an hour before tipoff the Lakers announced that Kobe wouldn't be playing in this game due to a sore shoulder.
Unfortunately, this has been a rough season for Kobe and the Lakers... They aren't a championship contending team in the Western Conference and not even a playoff contender that they have been for 17 of the past 20 seasons. Along with the team, Kobe isn't the same player that won three straight championships in the early 2000s either. After a 118-78 loss to OKC, Los Angeles is now (4-23) on the season and sitting 3.5 games into last place in the conference.
This season, Kobe averages 16.7 points per game (second lowest since 1997-1998), 4.3 rebounds, and 3.4 assists off 33 percent shooting, 24.7 percent shooting from 3-point, and a career low 78.6 percent from the free throw line. This season is obviously an "off" year for him, but the man is 37 years old, playing in his 20th NBA season. Can we really expect him to put up 25-plus points per game off almost 50 percent shooting consistently? Especially considering the major injuries he's encountered these past few years. Actually, things are looking up for Kobe in the last six games he's played in. He's averaging 18.3 points per game off 48.3 percent shooting, and 35 percent from three, also grabbing 5.5 rebounds per game and 4 assists. Those stats are actually better than his career average of 45 percent shooting from the field and 33 percent shooting from three. Maybe it's time to back off the vet and MAYBE, just maybe the first quarter of the season was rust.
Nevertheless Kobe is a great NBA player with a great legacy, certainly a top 10 player of all-time. Kobe has won 9 All-Defensive 1st Teams, 3 All-Defensive 2nd Teams, 11 All-NBA 1st Teams, 2 All-NBA 2nd Teams, 2 All-NBA 3rd Teams, 1 All-Rookie Team 2nd Team, 4 NBA All-Star MVPs, 2 NBA Finals MVPs, 1 NBA MVP, 17 NBA Player of the Months, 32 NBA Player of the Weeks, and 2 Olympic Gold Medals. Not to mention most importantly, 5 NBA Championships.
Hopefully this isn't the last time Oklahoma City will see Kobe play at the Peake. The Lakers will be here on Apr. 11, but there's no guarantee on Kobe's status for that game considering it will be there 81st and first to last game of the season.