The era of Kobe Bryant’s dominance may be over. After his Lakers lost to the Philadelphia 76ers on New Year’s Day, leaving their record at 15-16, Bryant sounded off about his team’s problems when asked what his diagnosis was:
Cause we’re old as s—. What do you want? We just got to figure out how to play when we don’t have that energy. We got to change things up a little bit defensively. We got to figure out what we want to do offensively, figure out what we want to do on nights when we don’t have those legs or have that energy.” … You just saw an old damn team. I don’t know how else to put it to you.
Kobe may be one of the greatest players of all time, but he is missing the boat. He claims that the Lakers’ problem is one of age?
The average age of the eight Lakers who played against Philadelphia was 29. When the Dallas Mavericks won the 2011 NBA championship over the young, hot Miami Heat, the average age of the Dallas team was over 32.
What’s really going on is either the Lakers are not a well-coached team or they simply do not give a damn anymore. There is enough talent on the squad to beat any team on a given night. Just as in every other sport, ultimately what winning comes down to is defense.
And although speed is a vital component of defense, desire and cohesion among the squad is even more important, with unselfishness being the key.
On the best teams, there is genuine unselfishness on defense. Unfortunately for Kobe, as great as he is, he has never been seen as the personification of unselfishness, a la Derek Fisher, (who was about as self-effacing as a player that good can be) so when the Lakers need to submerge their egos for the good of the squad, there is no leader to show them the way.