How Will Kobe Bryant’s Game Continue to Evolve as He Ages?

The once-heated debate about the NBA's best player has been cooling down over the past year-and-a-half.

The debate essentially ended this past June, when LeBron James completed the most dominant season for an individual since Michael Jordan by winning his first NBA title. LeBron's primary adversary for years was Kobe Bryant, but the Lakers' star saw his team fail to get past the second round of the playoffs for the second straight season.

Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant unseated Kobe when the Thunder convincingly knocked the Lakers out of the playoffs, and LeBron's dominance of Durant during the finals left little question as to the current hierarchy of the NBA's top players.

However, those who thought Kobe Bryant would continue to plummet down the ranks in 2012-13 have been proven utterly wrong.

Through 26 games, the 34-year-old Bryant has led the league with a scoring average of 29.5 points per game. He's scoring with greater efficiency than any other top-10 scorer besides James, Durant and somewhat inexplicably, O.J. Mayo.

Bryant's current scoring average is the third-highest of his career. More importantly, he has reversed the trends that led many to declare his decline. His shooting percentage had been getting lower and lower in each of the previous four seasons, his three-point percentage in the previous five.

This year, Kobe has the best field-goal percentage of his career, along with his second-best percentage from deep.

The best thing to do with this data would be to sit back, relax and enjoy watching one of the greatest of all time play out the remainder of his career. Numbers can only tell us so much, especially in the cases of players like Bryant, Jordan, Tim Duncan and, in a few years, LeBron James.

While the loss of physical ability leads to most careers either ending or dramatically declining in a player's early-to-mid 30s, the truly great ones tend to sta...

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