Superman power. Superman cape. When things went bad in Metropolis, Superman was always there to save the day.
Kobe Bryant has been LA’s Superman. At least that’s how I’ll always remember him. As a late 80’s baby, Kobe has been my generation’s “superstar.” Of the guys given the “Next Jordan” tag, Kobe has been the closest to fulfilling the Mount Everest of all monikers. While Penny Hardaway, Grant Hill, and Tracy McGrady had fallen from the wayside due to injuries, Kobe racked up 5 rings on his resume, giving his fans a reason to debate if he was better than “His Airness.”
On Monday night in Oakland and for most of this season, we’ve seen a bunch of Clark Kent. We keep hoping for Superman to rip through his facade like in the comics but in reality, Kobe Bryant has used up all of his “Solar Flares.” After his 1-14 shooting performance Kobe had this to say:
“My shooting will be better. I could’ve scored 80 tonight. It wouldn’t have made a damn difference. We just have bigger problems. I could be out there averaging 35 points a game. We’d be what, 3-11? We’ve got to figure out how to play systematically in a position that’s going to keep us in ballgames.”
While some part of us wants to keep believing this will happen, the odds are, it won’t. Although Bryant has been attempting to come back from a series of injuries the past 3 seasons, his offensive and defensive ratings are far from what represent a competent NBA player:
In a league that has become increasingly more about efficiency, Bryant’s game hardly translates to the current game. Bryant made a living off of making tough shots that only he could make. Now that he is a shell of what he was athletically, his already flat shot has even less of a chance of going in. Even worse, he’s surrounded by 2 young guards who need the ball in their hands to be successful in Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell. Teams no longer have to double Kobe, meaning his teammates are watching him take contested shots, with little to no ball movement, but I’ll save fixing of the Lakers for another day. The following graphic shows how much the league has changed since Bryant last played a full season:
Although Stephen Curry is the gold standard, 3-point shooting efficiency has taken over the league. Bryant’s mid-range assault is essentially useless against a proficient 3-point shooting team. Perhaps his comments from Monday are him conceding that even a prime Kobe was no match for the record breaking team he played that night. The Spurs created a system that the Warriors are now taking to another level. The two best regular season teams last year were led by coaches who are from the Greg Popovich coaching tree. Kobe’s championships would say otherwise but his career offensive and defensive ratings show a very talented but inefficient player:
While the scoring titles, fade-aways, and game-winning shots capture the eyes of many, the only way to truly evaluate the world’s best is through efficiency. The graphic above shows how inefficient Bryant’s finesse style actually is. To show how much the NBA has changed, here is a current look at some of the current NBA’s top SGs and SFs:
Am I suggesting that these guys are better than Kobe in his prime? Not per-se, all I am trying to show is how much the game has evolved. Mentioning Danny Green in the same sentence as Kobe Bryant deserves an exile to Moron Mountain, but when surrounded by the right players and system, Danny Green can be just as effective. So while we wait for Superman to rise again, maybe we just need to come to the realization that Superman is no longer needed in this league full with teams of capable sidekicks.