On Sunday night, Kobe Bryant registered the best performance of the 2014-15 season by any player.
On a historic note, Bryant became the first NBA player to score more than 30,000 points and pass off more than 6,000 assists. Asked about it after the game, he said he did not know he was about to make history but managed to take a sly shot at his critics: “It means I pass more than people say.”
As is often the case, Bryant hit the mark with skill and style. At 36 years of age, he recorded the 20th triple-double of his career. In doing so, Bryant also became the first 36-year-old to have a 30-point, 10-rebound and 10-assist game.
Forget the 36-year-old bit for a moment. How many players in the game at any age can hit those marks against an elite NBA team that consistently sends double teams designed to thwart the player's impact on the game?
To date, only four NBA players have recorded triple-doubles in the 2014-15 NBA season. Notably, all four of those players were point guards: Michael Carter-Williams, Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul and Kyle Lowry.
Bryant's final box score was the most impressive in the set: 31 points, 12 assists, 11 rebounds. Further, he recorded a block and only committed two turnovers. Also, he made 11 of 24 shots he took. To date, no player in the 2014-15 season has performed at this elite of a level in any game.
To provide context to how much more impressive Bryant's triple-double was than the other four players to have achieved the worthy mark this season, three of those guys--Paul, Lowry and Rondo--only scored 13 points in their special trifecta games. Bryant scored 14 points in the final 11 minutes of the game on Sunday, includes five minutes of overtime: i.e. game-winning time.
Carter-Williams was the only other member of the triple-double club to score over 13 points, as he logged 18 points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds on Saturday. However, Carter-Williams committed five turnovers on that night, shot a poor percentage (31 percent) and his team lost the game. Bryant's 31 points on 46 percent shooting, including clutch baskets late in the game, easily beat Carter-Williams' memorable night.
So, this all leads to the same question: How is Bryant, who is not on a maximum level contract, considered overpaid? Something doesn't seem quite right with the current salary cap system, as Bryant appears to be punished for getting older and still retaining his ability to perform at a high level.
But that is an argument for another day. For this day, one should simply smile that a certain 36-year-old messed around and got a triple-double.