Kobe Bryant Showing Road Back to Superstardom Will Be an Uphill Climb

Kobe Bryant is playing NBA basketball, a victory in itself for a man with his injury history and mileage. But what we've seen in the preseason so far indicates he's got a long way to go before he ever plays it as effectively as he once did.

And as much as it hurts to say so, the Kobe we used to know, the superstar so many revered, may be gone forever.

Through three exhibition tilts, Bryant has produced mixed results.


Bryant's Struggles

He has connected on just 13 of his 36 total field-goal attempts, and he appears unable to get into the lane off the dribble. This isn't altogether unexpected, but Bryant's total lack of lift has robbed him of the ability to generate easy shots—a problem made worse by the fact that so few of his Los Angeles Lakers teammates can create some for him.

Still, a torn Achilles and broken leg (Bryant's two most recent injuries) would have ended the careers of most players his age. And the version of Kobe we're watching today looks pretty darn good for a 36-year-old guard—even a healthy one.

In that regard, this non-superstar Bryant remains remarkable.

But the shots Bryant is taking...man. To call them tough is a gross understatement. The contested fall-away flings are difficult to describe. In some ways, watching Bryant shoot them is like watching Kevin Garnett run the floor: The movements are the same, but the speed and bounce just aren't there.

In another comparison that strikes closer to home for the Lakers, watching Bryant shoot those leaned-back faders is like watching Steve Nash navigate his way into the lane. The things he's doing are aesthetically similar, but the degree of difficulty is immeasurably greater than it used to be.

Bryant's worst career field-goal percentage was the 41.7 percent he shot as a rookie. In his abbreviated 2013-14 campaign, he connecte...

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