Basketball

Kobe is Back: 10 things to expect from The Black Mamba

Could this really be Kobe Bryant's last season?
Kobe is Back: 10 things to expect from The Black Mamba

10 things to expect from Kobe Bryant this season

Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant is set to enter what is likely the final season of his legendary NBA career. The closest thing the NBA has had to Michael Jordan since his retirement, Bryant has had a brilliant career in which he has won five championships, has been selected for 17 All-Star games, and has provided some of the most iconic moments in basketball history.

At 37-years-old however and entering the final year of his contract with the Lakers, all indications are the that the “Black Mamba” will be walking away from the NBA at seasons end. With that in mind, here are ten things to expect from Kobe Bryant in what will likely be his final season.

1) Kobe the facilitator

With all the millage his body racked up, Bryant is no longer the elite scorer he once was. In fact since tearing his achilles in 2013, Bryant has often sublimated his game to look to get his teammates open looks. Bryant has averaged 5.7 assists per game over the past two seasons, nearly a full assist over his career mark of 4.8 APG. With lottery picks D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle assuming larger scoring roles in the Lakers offense, expect to look pass first often and early for the Lakers.

2) Missing the end of back-to-backs

Although the NBA has adjusted its schedule to decrease the number of back-to-back games teams will play from now on, the Lakers will still play 13 back-to-back sets this year. Given Kobe’s age and recent injury history, expect Bryant to miss the tail-end of every single one of those back-to-back games.

3) A terrible FG%

In 35 games last season, Bryant shot a miserable 37.3% from the field. Although it’s hard to imagine a player of his caliber will manage to shoot that badly again, given Kobe’s tendency to take contest jumpers at the end of the shot clock, expect his FG% to be somewhere in that range again this season.

4) Very little defense

Let’s face it. Bryant is playing on borrowed time and only has so much juice left in his legs. Expect the head coach Byron Scott and the Lakers coaching staff to try to hide Kobe on defense as best as possible in order to prevent him from overworking himself on the defensive side of the floor. But by that same token . .

5) Kobe will finish 13th all-time in steals

Bryant is 75 steals behind Derek Harper for 13th all-time in the category. As long as Kobe manages to play 50 games, he should be able to blow right past that number. Unless . .

6) Kobe will exceed his minute limits, and risk injury

In reality, there is no way a player at Kobe’s age, with his injury history should be playing any more than 28 minutes per night. But hey, this is Kobe Bryant were talking about. If he wants to play 38 minutes on a given night, he’s going to, and will exponentially increase his chance to suffer an inury. Much of Byron’s Scott’s job this season will be to protect Kobe from himself; but likelihood of that successfully happening? Let’s just say: Good luck Byron!

7) Love and hate

No player is responsible more controversy, hatred, and broken hearts across the NBA over last 15 years than Kobe Bryant. By that same token, no player (LeBron James comes close) has captivated the basketball world over that same time frame than Kobe. As he makes his final rounds across the league, expect a bizarre, but well-deserved, mixture of hate, love, and respect from fans, coaches, and fellow players.

8) Frustration

Let’s keep it real Lakers fans. 35 wins is your ceiling in the juggernaught that is the Western Conference. And given Kobe’s borderline-psychotic competitive nature, expect to hear and see an incredible amount of frustration from the “Black Mamba” both on and off the court.

9) One last buzzer-beater

Surely, he’s got one left? It just wouldn’t be right for the world not have one more Kobe Bryant game winning buzzer-beater.

10) His final game will be:

April 13, 2016, against the Utah Jazz at home. This game will in all likelihood be Kobe Bryant’s final curtain call. Expect it to be an emotional night at Staples Center. There will be standing ovations, tears, an absurd amount of media coverage, and somewhere in the midst of it all there will also be an NBA basketball game.

Although there is an outside chance Bryant will play for Team USA in the 2016 Olympic games in Rio, game number 82 on the Lakers calendar will likely be the final time Kobe graces an NBA court. And if it truly is, the basketball world will be saying goodbye not just to an all-time great, but man who lived and breathed basketball every single moment of his career.

There is no denying one thing about Kobe Bryant: every time he stepped out on the court something special could happen. And while the NBA has had it’s fair share of players capable of such feats (and still does), the unique brand of basketball that is Kobe Bryant will soon be coming to an end. Love him or hate him, enjoy it while you still can.


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