2012 NBA Playoffs: Why Kobe Bryant Is Playing the Best Basketball of His Career

There's not much Kobe Bryant can do to improve upon his most productive seasons from 2005-06 to 2007-08.

But when you're talking about Hall of Fame locks like Bryant, it's not about the numbers.

If it were, his regular season would have been mediocre by his obscenely inflated standards. Bryant shot just 43 percent this season, the lowest mark since his second year in the league. Neither his rebound nor assist averages rank among his best seasons in those categories either.

On the face of things, the superstar is still one of the very best, even if he's not playing at his very best.

But perhaps this appearance is deceiving. Perhaps Bryant is playing better than his numbers suggest. After all, he's way beyond caring about those numbers at this point in his career—the only number on his mind is that sixth ring.

You could certainly fawn over the points and efficiency with which they've been scored in two playoff games against the young Denver Nuggets. Kobe has thus far delivered a vintage performance, including a 38-point rampage in an otherwise closely contested Game 2.

The 33-year-old has looked anything but rusty.

More importantly, though, he's looked anything but satisfied.

Bryant is making the right decisions at the right times in the way that only the most sage veterans can. He may have only had two assists Tuesday night, but one of those dishes came late in the fourth quarter on a play that epitomized what differentiates Kobe from so many pure scorers.

On a fast-break drive to the basket, Bryant passed up a more difficult layup in order to let the much bigger Andrew Bynum finish—and that he did (for an and-one no less).

Bryant has also become a master of timing, using his superlative talent to stop other players' runs and reclaim momentum for the Los Angeles Lakers. Whatever his numbers look like at the end of the game, you can res...

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