Kobe Bryant Undergoing Unique Evolution Yet Again During Age-36 Season

At the ripe old age of 36, Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers is still every bit the voracious learner.

From a league-leading volume scorer at the beginning of the season to his current incarnation as the team’s top setup man, the Mamba lives to prove his doubters wrong.

After a furious 27-game blizzard of taxing minutes and attempted heroics, the enduring Lakers star ran his tank empty. With all parts of his body aching and betraying him, Bryant took a three-game respite. It was a time of reflection and adjustment, not unlike other moments over the years.

For example, learning to sublimate one-on-one instincts for a triangular team approach or being tutored in post moves by Hakeem Olajuwon.

Or, perfecting his fadeaway jumper by studying how a cheetah moves, as explained in a New York Times interview in September.

Bryant has returned from his sabbatical a changed man, averaging 17 points, 8.5 rebounds and eight assists in 32 minutes per game.

After his second triple-double of the season in a win against the Denver Nuggets on Dec. 30, Bryant said, per Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "I’m more of a natural scorer, but it doesn't mean I can't evolve."

Explaining the metamorphosis more thoroughly, the 36-year-old added:

To score the ball takes a lot out of my legs. I'm making some adjustments. ... But also it gave me a chance to reflect. Breaking down my game. You see now I'm very, very efficient. I know exactly where I want to go. I get to my spots, I don't try to beat guys with quickness. I back them down, I get to my areas, I elevate over them. It's just old-school Oscar Robertson style.

On Sunday night against the Indiana Pacers, Bryant’s fresh legs and more economical approach paid off again with a come-from-behind 88-87 victory, capped by his short jumper in the closing seconds.

A life...

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