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Older Kobe needs more rest

Feb 9, 2010, 10:59 AM EDT

nba_bryant2_250.jpgWhat makes Kobe Bryant legendary is not the skill but the will.

Certainly, he’s gifted athletically. But a number of players come into the NBA with gifts, and most use a fraction of what God gave them and have a nice career. Not Kobe, he outworks everybody — he’s the first in the gym, he watches more game tape than some coaches, he works on his game hard in the off-season. Winning matters. Being the best matters. Nothing gets in the way.

He also in tremendous condition. He takes care of his body like no other. But at age 31, with plenty of miles on his legs, Kobe needs more rest than he is willing to allow himself. Sometimes, even the best gladiators need to pace themselves.

Bryant is not 23 anymore — he is 31 and has played 43,387 minutes over the course of 14 NBA seasons (counting playoffs). That’s 2,000 minutes more than Larry Bird before injuries ended his career. It’s more than Magic Johnson. It’s basically right about the career ending number for many of the game’s legends.

Kobe can — and should — keep going. He’s playing at the highest level of his career. But his body does not bounce back like it used to. Sprained ankles after Lamar Odom steps on your foot take a little longer before you’re running full speed. Sore backs don’t bounce back. Fractured fingers take a little longer before the splints can come off. And all of that is harder to play through.

Bryant knows all this, intellectually. But what makes Kobe fascinating is he is like the lead character in a classic Greek tragedy — his greatest strength is his greatest weakness. The will and drive that made him the best player of a generation is the same thing that makes it nearly impossible for him to take his foot off the gas now.

Lakers trainer Gary Vitti said he would like Kobe to sit out through the All-Star Game. Phil Jackson knows better than to tell Kobe what to do, so he is playing the “whatever Kobe wants to do, he can do” card.

Bryant said he wants to play Wednesday in Utah, but that is a game-time decision. Same with the All-Star Game. “I’m not clairvoyant” was his response when asked if he would play.

The Lakers are not better without Kobe, but the last two games (wins over Portland and San Antonio) show they can survive just fine for a little bit. Kobe knows if he can go, but his teammates will be fine if he takes a short break, so he can be ready for the final push of the season and into the playoffs.

Bryant knows all this, intellectually. But will the drive that made him push his body to be one of the all time greats allow him to give his body the rest it needs as he ages? We will have to stay tuned to see how that play ends.

  1. edwin - Feb 10, 2010 at 3:20 AM

    at the end of their career, it is how many rings you led your team. Have anyone heard Dominique Wilkins mentioned on the same sentence as MJ right now? Or Ewing with Hakeem? If Lebron wont get his ring when his career ends, then he wont be in any discussion with Kobe.
    Besides, I suspect the durability of Lebron with his way of playing; power. I dont know, but I hope we are not WITNESSing another Shawn Kemp here

  2. BigDOhio - Feb 10, 2010 at 6:54 AM

    What do rings have to do with how good an individual is? Rings are won by teams. When Shaq left how many rings did Kobe win before the got Casol and Byrnum? The person who posted the LBJ comment s entitled to his opinion just as the rest of us are entitled to theirs and calling anyone who does not agree with your opinion would tend to make you closer to what you called that person than the person.
    I started watching basketball back when Cousy was a guard on Bostons team and in my opinion the best basketball player I ever saw was Oscar Robertson. Until someone else comes along and averages a triple double for a year that opinion will not change. Kobe is in the top 5 but not the best ever.

  3. Anonymous - Feb 10, 2010 at 6:59 AM

    Dosent Derrick Fisher have as many rings as Kobe does? Is he the greatest also?

  4. bobdevo - Feb 10, 2010 at 11:16 AM

    Robert Horry has 6 rings so I guess that makes him 150% greater than Kobe, but only 54% as great as Bill Russell.

  5. NickLA - Feb 10, 2010 at 12:25 PM

    u are joking right ? labron has the potential to be great, he’s nowhere near greatness right now.

  6. Rhys - Feb 10, 2010 at 1:27 PM

    Mashed is right!Lebron Best Steam-Roller Alive! What a joke I don’t know when being a fullback in the NBA became enough to make you the best player ever! I’m not a Lebron basher, but i’m tired of morons attaching excellence to a player because his name is coming out of everybody’s mouth, He is a great player but people have proclaimed him “the king” way to soon!

  7. Anonymous - Feb 10, 2010 at 6:35 PM

    LEBRON HAS TO BE ROBORN AGAIN TO BE LIKE KOBE…KOBE IS THE STAR OF TODAY..LEBRON NEEDS TO WATCH AND LEARN

  8. luffy - Feb 12, 2010 at 8:05 PM

    just comments, blah, blah, I don’t think no one really has the capability to rate Kobe and Lebron until you’ve actually played in the NBA. say what you can say but all is based on stats and rings…
    I say both of them are great and will be on the top 5 in history.
    The better man, we can’t tell til they’re both retired and we know the over-all stats and rings…

  9. Laker Fan - Feb 14, 2010 at 12:15 AM

    Older Kobe can still potentially rape again.

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