Kobe Bean Bryant was a premier scorer in the NBA for 16 and a half season, but halfway through his 17th season, the Mamba changed. In an All-Star Game, the most selfish scorers tend to score the most points, as defense is non-existent for the first three quarters. An aggressive scorer can get just about any shot he wants due to the lack of defensive intensity—especially in the first half.
Bryant, however, was content to pass the ball and find his teammates even when there was no real defense to stop him from shooting. Bryant did what he’s been doing for the past 15 games: he made the right play. Consequently, Bryant had seven assists and only five shot attempts by halftime, as he was playing more like a second point guard than a true shooting guard for the Western Conference.
Along with reinforcing that Bryant is not about to revert to a 30-shot attempt player anytime soon, the All-Star Game provided further evidence that something is amiss with regards to Bryant’s three point shot. Whether the issue derives from his sore elbow or is just a temporary slump, Bryant currently does not pose a threat behind the arc. He was 0-3 in Sunday’s game, and he was 1-30 over his previous 14 games wearing purple and gold.
Finally, Sunday’s All-Star Game provided yet another example that there is no competitor on the same level as the Los Angeles Lakers’ superstar. Taking on the challenge of guarding the league’s reigning Most Valuable Player—and LeBron James is on his way to another trophy by the way—head-to-head with the game on the line would appear to be death wish. After all, James is faster, younger, stronger, and in the best form of his career.
However, Bryant’s competitive spirit trumped James’ athletic superiority. Bryant blocked James twice down the stretch, and the most unstoppable force in basketball sunk and disappeared in the face of a 17-year veteran intensely jawing after every play.
Bryant may no longer be young enough to throw down in the Slam Dunk contest, but he still has enough competitive juice to stare down any opponent. In the fourth quarter of the All-Star Game, Bryant's competitive spirit embarrassed James' athletic ability.
On Sunday, Kobe Bryant proved his passing-more and shooting-less play was not just an act for the LA crowd, and he reminded the world that five championships do not simply fall into someone’s lap.
Kobe Bryant proved, once again, that he is not afraid of any challenge under any spotlight, and that is why he has been so incredibly successful for nearly two decades.
For all the measurable abilities Bryant displayed when he was drafted into the league, his immeasurable talents still continue to separate him from the field. Seventeen years into the NBA, he's still got "it."