Happy 35-Year, 117-Day Birthday, Kobe

Kobe Bryant is trying to do something no other wing player his age ever has done (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE)

Kobe Bryant is trying to do something no other wing player his age ever has done (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE)

Kobe Bryant is facing a long road back, considering the destination that probably means the most to him: A sixth NBA championship ring.

Not that he necessarily needs this in chasing it, but we’ve got a teensy bit of extra motivation for him.

First, of course, Bryant has to get his game back, if not to its all-galaxy heights then at least to something reminiscent of who he was and what it was prior to tearing his left Achilles tendon in April. Then he has to fit and shape himself and his teammates on this year’s edition of the Lakers (or the next two) into the ranks of legit contenders.

And then  they have to actually play and win the games, 16 victories in at most 28 games, when the stakes are highest, the pressure is most intense, and fatigue – and in Bryant’s case, Father Time – are laughing hardest.

So just in case Bryant needs a little extra oomph in his quest, here it is: He would be doing something Michael Jordan never did.

As noted on Twitter by “GangstaMoogle” (a.k.a., Tommy), Dec. 18, 2013 is a special day for Bryant because, as of today, he is precisely the same age as Jordan was when His Airness clinched that 1998 NBA Finals with The Shot in Game 6 against the Utah Jazz:

That means, should Bryant win a ring from this point forward, he will accomplish something Jordan didn’t. Didn’t even come close to doing, in fact, given the Washington Wizards’ 74-90 record (no playoffs) from 2001-03 in the former Bulls star’s two late-career seasons with them.

Among Hall of Fame players, no wing player or big-time ballhandler considered the leader of the team — note that we’re not counting big men — ever has won a championship at the age Bryant will be by his next playoffs. Or even tomorrow, according to basketball-reference.com.

Boston’s Sam Jones was 50 days shy of his 36th birthday when the Celtics won again in 1969, but by that point, the five-time All-Star ranked third on his team in scoring (16.3 pgg) and sixth in minutes (26.0).

Gary Payton was 37 when he got his ring with the Miami Heat in 2006 but he was well past his “Glove” prime at both ends, with a PER (10.7) that ranked ninth, behind both Dorell Wright (13.2) and Wayne Simien (11.5).

If you broaden it to include players likely to be enshrined, the Heat’s Ray Allen was at a point similar to Jones, averaging 25.8 minutes as his team’s fourth option. Jason Kidd led the 2010 Dallas champs in assists (8.2) and averaged 33.8 minutes, but by PER (14.4) he ranked no higher than eighth among the Mavericks and 14th in usage (14.3).

Jordan got his sixth ring same as his first five, as his team’s best player and leading scorer. That’s something Bryant might have to, and probably would like to, do for one more.

The odds against him increase with each passing day. And knowing what we know of Bryant, he would have it no other way.

22 Comments

  1. Nerf-Basketball-GM says:

    He can’t guard Parker, Westbrook or Curry at PG.. It’s like 4-on-5..
    Play him at SF and make him post more if he got it in him…

  2. MJ, Big O, Kobe, Magic, Drexler says:

    Nobody can win championships alone. Ask Big O he needed Lew Alcindor! You need at least a partner to play the way MJ and Pippen did. In the end its all about the rings but in Kobe mind I dont really think he is thinking about it. I think he is going for the whole career points MJ did.

  3. theaandthea says:

    the goat at the same age was a lot more fresh and still the MVP-
    Mj had a super strong body, do you see kobe score decently 40 or 50 points at 40 years old ? 39 ? 38? . hell no

  4. sports fan says:

    Kobe definitely won’t win a championship this season. Next season he’ll be hardpressed to win another because the west will still be loaded but that will probably be his only real shot at a 6th ring. The season after that will be his last year at age 37 and his skills (while healthy) will be at his worst for his career. MJ is at another level but give Kobe credit for what he’s done in his career & to be able to come back after his injury.

  5. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    Actually, if you think about it, severe NBA injuries often occur on awkward-looking physical falls/movement/contact.

    What kind of knee injury does Bryant have now? Knee sprain?

  6. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    It’s over for Lakers and Kobe Bryant. He injured himself seriously in that Memphis game. If you watch the replay, he tried to post-up Tony Allen. SUDDENLY OUT OF NOWHERE, he falls over and collapses to the floor. In fact, I think the ref called a foul on that play after Bryant looked at the ref. NO WAY. Bryant fell to the ground on his own when he tried to spin baseline. NO FOUL on that play. Tony Allen was just standing there, for goodness sake. HAHAHAHAHA!!!!

    It’s over for Laker and Bryant. Sorry. Not even the refs can bail you out this time.

    • Joshua Greenfarb says:

      Sorry, Bryant. This isn’t 2002 when the Lakers got the refs to rig the Sacamento series in the playoffs. This isn’t last season when the refs cheated to allow the Lakers to barely squeak into the playoffs.

      It’s over. Accept it, Bryant. It’s … all … over. Bryant is done. Fired. He will never be a star again, ever. :-)

    • toki says:

      another dumb hater who doesn’t know what he’s talking about…. the REF did not call a FOUL on that play. The play stops because Kobe Bryant CALLED a TIMEOUT after he falls.

  7. iamironman says:

    it’s funny how this article is supposed to motivate kobe. lol.easier said than done.
    1) MJ is far more superior than Bryant.
    2) The Lakers must make the Playoffs, then face OKC, San Antonio or even Portland and must (unlikely) win.
    3) If ever they make it to the Finals, they must beat Indiana or my Miami Heat with LeBron (who is also trying to make history)

    Lol. In your dreams kobe.

    • go lakers says:

      Would love to see us against blazers first round. Very easily beatable with our vets. Bring it

      • Sahdoff says:

        Are you serious?!? Blazers have one of the fastest and most efficient offenses in the league. Plus they matchup better individually (minus Kobe although I’m not worried about him especially with Mathews and Batum guarding him.) Your vets aren’t great; you have Nash, who is old but definitely still got serious game. I’d take lillard over him anyday though. Pau? Please LMA trumps him by miles anyday. Don’t even get me started on your other bigs and bench. Plus that Laker defense is worse than Portlands! And portland’s is not good (except guarding the 3, they’re great at that).
        Lakers are slow, old, and inefficient. Portland would smoke them in playoffs, 5 games MAX.

  8. standard says:

    haters gonna hate
    kobe was good and fun to watch
    but jordan was out of this galaxy.

  9. kobeballhog says:

    win a ring? you guys are a joke. kobe will never ever win any more rings period. i guarantee that. not backing down with his sky high salary, ballhogging ways, always wants to be the alpha ( who superstar wanna ever play with him?) im so glad dwight left great decision careerwise. any superstar is better off elsewhere if they want for better of their career.

    • Mister 215 says:

      Please tell me who in the league right now that has more rings then Kobe. You are a pure hater. Shaq needed him. He had Eddie Jones and Penny Hardaway and still didn’t win with them. Trust me Kobe is a winner. 5 time winner. Even Jordan with all his greatness only got 6 so Kobe must be doing something right.

      • Kome the Black Dumba says:

        Only got 6? Did you even consider the retirement. You think Kobe can be the main man at 40 years old?(wizards) Kobe will never be MJ. He might be the closest, and the only reason because he copies every MJ moves.

        Another note, are you comparing a prime Penny with a prime Jones? Jones no doubt a good player with good defense but he wasn’t even close to Penny.

  10. lol says:

    omg this article makes no sense…even if Kobe gets a ring before he decides to retire so what? he will be carried to it since hes crippled now, doesnt mean anything, why the comparison with MJ anyway, MJ was a far better player leader and scorer.

  11. People should stop comparing Kobe to MJ. MJ’s stats were out of this world and looking at his awards, no single player can be compared to Jordan: http://www.hostnumber.com/michael-jordan-career-stats.html