Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant was asked following Thursday night's preseason game against the Utah Jazz whether he took offense to ESPN's decision to rank him 40th in their annual player rankings.
“Nah. I’ve known for a long time that they’re a bunch of idiots,” Bryant said, according to Lakers Nation's Ryan Ward. Bryant went on to explain that the ranking doesn't really bother him. From the Orange County Register:
“Honestly, all jokes aside, it really doesn’t bother me too much,” he said. “I’m going to do what I do regardless. And God willing I can stay healthy and if I wind up proving a lot of people wrong in the process that will just wind up being collateral damage.”
In a move believed to be a reference to ESPN's ranking Bryant the 25th best player in the league and the Lakers the 12th best team in the Western Conference prior to last season, Bryant changed his Twitter avatar to an image with the numbers "1225."
Rivals would rather do just about anything than prematurely write off Bryant, out of respect to his work ethic and historical standing, but he’s reaching the point, age-wise, where few elite players have traveled. Consider this: In 2012-13, at age 34, Bryant posted 10.9 Win Shares, ranking eighth in the league. Jordan, Sam Cassell, Reggie Miller, John Stockton, Chet Walker, Jerry West and Detlef Schrempf are among the other perimeter players to exceed 10 Win Shares at that age. However, the age-decline cliff comes quickly, as Stockton is the only perimeter player to post 10 Win Shares after turning 36, which just so happens to be Bryant’s current age. In other words, getting back to his pre-injury form wouldn’t just be impressive; it would be virtually unprecedented.
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said last month that Bryant's minutes will be managed this season. Bryant, 36, missed all but six games a year ago due to injuries. He is entering his 19th season in the league. Over four preseason games, Bryant has averaged 13.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists.
The Lakers open the regular season Oct. 28 against the Houston Rockets.
- Chris Johnson