When Kobe Bryant announced his retirement in November, it seemed like the day couldn’t come soon enough.
Bryant and the Lakers were struggling mightily, with Kobe’s body appearing to fail him.
In November, Kobe averaged just 14 points on 29% shooting, 20% from three, with four rebounds and three assists per game. The Lakers were just 2-15 entering December, and it appeared through a bevy of airballs and bricks that Kobe was done for good.
However, through December, Kobe has hit a small groove, and the Lakers, if nothing else, are playing respectably. Over the last five games, Kobe is averaging 25 points per game on 50% shooting, 35% from three, with five rebounds and five assists per game. The Lakers have gone 2-3 in that stretch, with one loss coming against the Thunder while Kobe sat out.
On Tuesday, Bryant had arguably his best performance of the year in a win over the Denver Nuggets: 31 points on 10-22 shooting, three rebounds, five assists, a block, and a steal.
After the game, when asked about his improved play, Kobe offered great perspective on rebounding from his early struggles.
“The hardest thing [was] to stay with it, seriously,” he told reporters. “There’s been games where I was just kind of like, ‘What the hell?’
“Because I knew how hard I worked. I knew how many shots I took. There was just nothing I could do. What I had to do was just stay with it. Just stay with it. Just stay with it. And just trust that, eventually, it would catch up.”
In Tuesday’s win, Kobe offered a glimpse at his old self, hitting a tough fade-away dagger over the Nuggets. His teammates loved it:
The Lakers have little to play for this season besides a top draft pick. Even in a top-heavy Western Conference, they’re far from playoff contention, and still depend upon Kobe rediscovering the Fountain of Youth.
However, it was hard to watch Kobe go out like his body couldn’t handle the grind of the NBA season. It’s good for the league and its fans if one of the top players ever can maintain this elevated play for a longer stretch of time.
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