x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant deserves applause for a fantastic season

Some of the 34-year-old guard's achievements this season can be compared to those of Michael Jordan. Yet, he has not received his due.

Kobe Bryant, right, is averaging 27.8 points, 5.7 assists, 5.4 rebounds and shooting a career-best 47.5 per cent this season. Andrew D Bernstein / Getty Images
Kobe Bryant, right, is averaging 27.8 points, 5.7 assists, 5.4 rebounds and shooting a career-best 47.5 per cent this season. Andrew D Bernstein / Getty Images

Some find it hard to give Kobe Bryant his due. It is the considerable ego, the strut, the glare and too many wild shots.

It is time, however, to credit the Los Angeles Lakers' star for one of the great seasons by a 34-year-old guard. Maybe the greatest.

He is doing things at an age when most great guards had retired. Isiah Thomas was done at 32, and so was Pete Maravich. George Gervin gave up the game at 33.

Meanwhile, Bryant this NBA season is averaging 27.8 points, 5.7 assists, 5.4 rebounds and shooting a career-best 47.5 per cent. Those are eye-popping statistics for a veteran.

The only comparable performance in NBA annals was by the man he has been chasing his entire career, Michael Jordan. At the age of 34, Jordan averaged 28.7 points, 3.5 assists, 5.8 rebounds and shot 46.5 per cent. His and Bryant's numbers are remarkably close, with Bryant having the only semi-significant edge in assists.

Yet little has been made of Bryant's terrific season. Partially because it is not widely different from the numbers he put up last season. His greatness is expected, even at 34, and partly because the Lakers as a team have been disappointing.

Yet Bryant deserves great credit.

His dedication to conditioning is paying off later in his career. As is his ability to play with pain. Here late in the season, he is almost willing the Lakers back into the play-off hunt. In two victories last week, he averaged 41.5 points and 12 assists.

Give him his due.

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