Lake Show-Stopper: Is Kobe Bryant No Longer an Elite NBA Player?

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant would probably love nothing more than to regain some of the youth and explosiveness that made him the NBA's top player for most of the past decade.

A broken index finger and a gimpy knee slowed Bryant for much of last season, and even though he still managed to average 27 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game, many people felt the torch of NBA individual supremacy had been passed.

Trying to determine the NBA's top player is a highly subjective matter, and the end result will always be a matter of opinion. But it is easy to assemble a list of worthy candidates.

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade should reside near the top of that list, as should Bryant, but there have been whispers that Bryant may no longer reside among the league's top five players.

An article recently published on this website that ranked the NBA's top 50 players placed Bryant in the seventh spot, just ahead of Kevin Durant and behind Chris Paul.


Chris Paul missed nearly half of the regular season, and even the staunchest Durant supporter would be hesitant to label him in the same category as Bryant.

I am willing to admit that Bryant's game has declined, but it's hard to get a clear picture to what degree, considering the injuries he faced last season.

Even with the injuries Bryant still ranked fourth in the NBA in scoring and his season ended in the Finals, where his Lakers won their second consecutive NBA championship and Bryant captured his second Finals MVP award.

Bryant will never win many popularity contests, but it's hard to argue that he no longer exists as an elite player whether you loathe him as a person or not.

Most players would have been hard-pressed to play through the pain of an injury on their shooting hand, but Bryant not only played through that pain, he still excelled while doing it.

That type of ...

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