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Older Kobe needs more rest

Feb 9, 2010, 10:59 AM EST

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. Wilson Rod - Feb 9, 2010 at 11:25 AM

    Está en baja el señor.
    http://www.deportesaltiempo.net

  2. Brooklyn kid - Feb 9, 2010 at 11:31 AM

    Kobe will never quit on his teamates, if he gives in to the injuries he believes that is what he is doing.The thing’s you
    wrote are true, Kobe will never admit or use them as an excuse
    his will to win will trump his injuries everytime.I believe
    Phil must sit Kobe against Utah without asking his star player
    his opinion, the most important thing is the playoffs and his
    run to a repeat which is what will/ has driven him.This guy is awesome and is untouchable when his will to win exposed.Kobe is
    on amission to claim #5, get ya popcorn ready.

  3. Lowell Wikins - Feb 9, 2010 at 12:48 PM

    LeBron is amazing. He’s already the best player to have ever lived.

  4. lowell wilkins is a duchebag - Feb 9, 2010 at 12:59 PM

    need i say more.Lowell Wilkin is a Moron. LJ is having a good year. Hasnt proved ANYTHING except that he has fans out there that don’t know what they are talking about. Lowell Wilkin Lowell Wilkin Lowell Wilkin Lowell Wilkin Lowell Wilkin Lowell Wilkin Lowell Wilkin Lowell Wilkin IS A RETARD!!!!

  5. Craig W. - Feb 9, 2010 at 1:18 PM

    Perhaps Lowell just hasn’t lived long enough to see many of the past basketball greats.

  6. Hogan - Feb 9, 2010 at 1:48 PM

    Lebron is good. Kobe was good when he was Lebron’s age. Lets see if Lebron is as good at Kobe’s age as Kobe is. Plus, as in most sports, count the rings. MJ has 6. Kobe has 4. Lebron…..

  7. scratch N smell - Feb 9, 2010 at 2:50 PM

    Did LeBron find Kobes Championship Rings Yet, he wouldn’t know
    what he is looking for anyway, he doesn’t have one so how can
    he know whta it look’s like.

  8. Anonymous - Feb 9, 2010 at 2:53 PM

    LeBron has a gazillion and half dollars but no ring’s

  9. MEC - Feb 9, 2010 at 3:05 PM

    That’s not true at all. LeBron HAS seen pictures of rings, so there!
    Witness!!!

  10. SAM SKOL - Feb 9, 2010 at 3:06 PM

    Kobe should not play againts Utah and All Stars game. If you want to win championship this year or next. The team and the fan need you to stay healthy as much as 100% as possible. Remember how Cleveland beat you when you are not 100%?

  11. Pivster - Feb 9, 2010 at 3:16 PM

    NBA = WWE … it’s just entertainment, not sports anymore.
    LeBron will get his ring this year. Commish Stern has all ready sent out the memo to teams and refs alike. It’ll be Lakers-Cavs in the Finals and LeBron will get his first ring. Attendance is down throughout the league as are ratings so Stern feels the need to do something drastic.
    You heard it here first.

  12. shooter - Feb 9, 2010 at 3:23 PM

    kobe sucks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. cecilia - Feb 9, 2010 at 3:43 PM

    It is amazing to me how we continue to support and adore the Kobes and Michael Jacksons of this world.

  14. nba fan - Feb 9, 2010 at 3:45 PM

    shooter sucks!

  15. chris - Feb 9, 2010 at 3:56 PM

    explanation of comment?

  16. Auzziegirl - Feb 9, 2010 at 4:15 PM

    Cecilia,
    Just in case you missed it – Michael Jackson is no longer “of this world!”
    And, while I’m at it Cecilia, what are you – a Saint? Thought not!

  17. Anonymous - Feb 9, 2010 at 4:34 PM

    Let’s see if Kobe can still do it at Steve Nash’s age not that is a player, Should bet mor MVP attention than either Stoke me Kobe and throw powder around Lebron

  18. eric - Feb 9, 2010 at 4:51 PM

    kobe is all right in the regular season. wait till you see him in playoff time, its going to be a whole different kobe. He started the season with post up offense, now hes more mid range. play off time, hes going to be unstoppable, inside and out.

  19. nick - Feb 9, 2010 at 6:10 PM

    Sure, Kobe’s competitive fire is legendary, which ranks him with the all time greatest. But honestly, the thing that makes him different than, lets say MJ, is that his competitive fire is driven purely by ego. If there werent millions of people recognizing his greatness and groveling at his feet, he probably wouldnt even care about basketball.
    Chasing Jerry West’s record – it was painfully honest that having his name up there on top of the list was more important than winning any individual games.
    This isnt to take away from his skills – id be more scared playing against him than any other player in the NBA.

  20. shep - Feb 9, 2010 at 6:28 PM

    i have to agree with pivster i love watching kobe play but stern sets the rules and the nba follows
    NBA = WWE … it’s just entertainment, not sports anymore.
    LeBron will get his ring this year. Commish Stern has all ready sent out the memo to teams and refs alike. It’ll be Lakers-Cavs in the Finals and LeBron will get his first ring. Attendance is down throughout the league as are ratings so Stern feels the need to do something drastic.
    You heard it here first.

  21. Korey - Feb 9, 2010 at 8:25 PM

    Great.
    I’m assuming nick has his PhD in Psychology.
    “But honestly, the thing that makes him different than, lets say MJ, is that his competitive fire is driven purely by ego.”
    How would you even know that and how would you ever prove that? Because you watched him play basketball a few times, you know what his intentions are, obviously ignoring the fact that Kobe literally grew up overseas (Italy) playing basketball. It’s all he ever knew.
    And obviously, you didnt hear MJs HOF speech where he dissed everyone who ever crossed his path. That’s not ego?
    Let’s say Nick is right…And Kobe is doing it for the fame, but MJ is doing it just for competition sake….So what? Would it be wrong for someone to want fame/glory and then actually have the motivation to go make it happen (ala 90% of every famous entertainer ever?)…
    The Kobe “Hater” is getting really old and pretty much embarassing. When all is said and done, Kobe is a top 10 player in NBA history and you wasted 15 years saying that he isnt great because you think he is “ego-driven” or “selfish”… Sounds really dumb.

  22. Paulette Tino - Feb 9, 2010 at 9:05 PM

    Watch UFC 109 Free at FLY34.com

  23. bobdevo - Feb 9, 2010 at 9:39 PM

    What goes around comes around, Kobe. Payback for that rape a few years back.

  24. bobdevo - Feb 9, 2010 at 9:41 PM

    Bill Russell has 11. Eleven, count them, 11 rings. Don’t tell me about Kobe . . . he’s a jerk and a joke.

  25. Mustafa - Feb 9, 2010 at 10:17 PM

    Lebron James is the best player ever!!!! I bet if Micheal Jordan played against him in this era – he would get mashed. Lebron is just unstoppable! He is a machine that triple doubles for you!

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