BALL DON'T STOP

24/7-365. Basketball Lives Here.

Kobe Bryant Has Defeated Father Time

Photo via Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Photo via Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Kobe Bryant is coming off of two major injuries, he is 36-years old, as of this writing he has played 54,335 minutes through his 19-year NBA career. He has had almost 25 injuries that have sidelined him for at least a game since coming into the league in 1996. The wear and tear is real, so is the mileage. Kobe Bryant has gone through more physical stress than almost any player in NBA history. Yet he keeps coming back better than ever.

Most of you just see the end result. A 36-year old Bryant coming back off of two career-threatening injuries, a year and a half away from the game, moving around like he is 27-years old, going baseline against one of the better perimeter defenders in the league and throwing down a vicious 180 degree dunk. Blowing past dudes almost 10 years younger than, hanging in the air and finishing like a prime MJ.

Crazy right? He’s Kobe Bryant, of course he can do that, right? The closest thing we’ve ever seen to Michael Jordan, right? It’s not that easy. It doesn’t happened over night. What Bryant is doing right now is very hard to do, BUT it can be achieved through intense/smart training methods and only he is the proof of that. It takes an extremely dedicated, passionate, mentally tough and driven athlete to be able to do what Kobe Bryant is currently doing, especially when your 36 years old in your 19th season in the NBA. It’s Bryant’s love and obsession for the game, combined with his burning desire to play the game at an elite level that has been fueling him these past few years to continue playing at a high level.

Bryant’s dedication, his discipline and commitment to staying not only in-shape, but in elite shape is the reason he isn’t just beating father time, he is owning it.

The Lakers are only four games into the 2014-15 NBA season, but Bryant is looking great. His timing may be a little off, but physically, Bryant is in peak shape. He literally looks like the 27-year old Kobe Bryant, I cannot tell the difference. He is moving very well, he is quick, not just towards the hoop, but laterally too. He is explosive, there is still a ton of power in his legs, he is strong, he can jump, his reaction time is on point, his conditioning, his lift, Kobe Bryant is still a very very good athlete.

Just remember, this guy is coming off a torn Achilles tendon, and a fractured tibia in his strong leg. The speed of the NBA game is so fast, having injuries in those two spots in the strong leg can totally change the way a player plays, especially late in their careers. Bryant has to explode off that leg to get to the hoop, although he has been a two-foot jumper for majority of his career, these past couple years Bryant has been using that left leg to elevate over defenders for dunks and to block shots. He needs strength and explosiveness in that leg if he wants to perform at a high level.

It’s not just the leg either, when you’re out for as long as he was, the muscles become dormant, especially if you have as much mileage and wear and tear as Kobe does. Even years before the injury, no matter how much icing, massaging, foam rolling and stretching he did, Bryant has probably woken up sore or feeling tight on a regular basis, so imagine how big of a setback these injuries were.

balldontstop

The scariest part for a 36-year old athlete who’s is indeed incredibly skilled, but is still one of the greatest athletes in the history of the game, is the time off in a cast after the injury. Not the actual rehab, physiotherapy and re-strengthening phase, but the first 8-12 weeks where you have a cast on and just sit, or even worse, have to lay on a bed.

In that time off, an athlete’s neurological system is basically inactive. They are losing strength. They can’t train, for the most part they can’t do any type of exercise. They begin losing core strength and their endurance takes a big hit. Athletes lose mobility when injuries like these occur, their entire body forgets how to balance itself, let alone come off screens hard, rip past a defender and finish above the rim like Bryant has been his whole career.

Then there is the eating habits. Late in their careers when athletes suffer these type of injuries, it can become very easy to sit on your couch and eat/drink whatever. This is when the body fat percentage begins increasing. NBA players, especially guards, need to be incredibly lean, so when you can see a gut and some fat on their cheeks, it is not a good sign. A thicker look late in an NBA career usually means a players body is on the decline.

For a guy who has done it all in his career, is a living legend, a megastar who has the numbers, rings and everything else in between, it becomes extremely easy to say “F**k it” during this time off and just tank their career. Nobody knows what Kobe’s eating habits were like while he was inactive for the first few months after his Achilles tear, he did however admit to having ate whatever the hell he wanted and eventually needing three weeks of rigorous training to get his conditioning, flexibility and explosiveness back.

At some point this past year, Bryant had to have taken on a strict diet. He is looking very lean to start the season and that’s a big reason his quickness and agility is still there.

During his time off in 2013-14, Bryant would have to have first lost the excess body fat, then he would need to re-teach his body basic movement patterns and eventually begin basketball activities. He would have had to re-fire up his neurological system through plyometric training and gotten in the weight room to get his strength back. Then there is the conditioning, then there is the basketball conditioning, because being in shape is totally different from being in basketball shape.

Kobe did it. He put in some serious work to get healthy, then he put in even more work to re-gain his strength, speed, agility, flexibility and lift. Then he put in even more work to try to get more explosive than he was when he got hurt.

If the Black Mamba goes down, his mentality is to come back stronger, not just healthy enough to play, but better than ever. And so far, from the looks of it, he has done it.

It’s not just the dunk against the Clippers or the incredible circus shot against the Warriors on Saturday. The lift is actually the surprising part, but it isn’t the most important. Bryant is moving better than he was before he hurt his Achilles near the end of the 2013-14 season. Every movement of his is crisp and quick, he is twisting, turning, he is very light on his fight, yet still strong. It’s beautiful to watch. He doesn’t look 36-years old, he doesn’t look like a guy who is coming off two major injuries either.

This is what makes Kobe Bryant great; this is what separates him from the rest of the players from his generation. His patience, discipline, work ethic and will to be the absolute best. He knows what he needs to do to improve and adjust, but he takes it to another level to maximize his results.

The former league MVP does things that other players don’t do, he puts in work when most dudes are probably sleeping, he makes sacrifices, he takes risks and he is consistently on the grind. Bryant is a workaholic, and he is driven, and that is why he is as successful as he is.

The 16-time All-Star is showing the world that if you take care of your body, age is just a number.

NBA players get tired as their career goes on, they develop poor lifestyle habits, they begin to train less in the off-season, the number of reps and intensity in their workouts begins to decline. They stop pushing their body like they once did.

There are many distractions in life for an NBA player over the age of 30. Some of them are busy starting up businesses and setting themselves up for life after basketball, they have families, kids that they want to spend time with, places they want to travel before it’s all said and done and all this ends up interfering in their workouts. They lose that tunnel vision.

I’ve spoke to many players that say there has been off-seasons where they don’t even train or touch a ball. Instead, they use the off-season to heal their injuries and just get ready for another season. This is cool and all, but when you’re a big name and you stop putting in work and give up on trying to enhance your God-given talent, people notice quickly.

As their NBA mileage increases, veterans that were once All-Stars aren’t as disciplined as they were in their prime, when they had all the trainers and coaches in their ear, monitoring every move they make, making sure they eat clean etc. So they layback, enjoy the summer and boom! Their game slips. Their muscles were just waiting to hit dormant and they let it happen.

It’s not a bad thing though, being able to play over 10 years in the NBA is an accomplishment on it’s own, so there isn’t  anything wrong with taking a summer or two off, even after their hurt. They’ve accomplished a lot, they have made millions doing it and they had a hell of a ride, so they can take some time off, it’s their life and they earned it.

Kobe Bryant knows this and he takes time off after the season too, he goes on vacations, he doesn’t touch a ball for a month either. But when it’s time to work, this dude becomes an animal, he goes all out.

balldontstop

The fact of the matter is, late in their careers NBA veterans simply get tired of it, mentally, physically, psychologically and emotionally they are just not into it like they once were. An NBA career can be extremely exhausting. The practices, training camps, playing 82 games each year, then the playoffs, the travelling can take a toll on them too. They get burnt out. Older players can’t wait till the off-season, because they are literally taking it “off”.

These guys love the game no doubt, the desire to play and even play at a high level is indeed there, but they stop working as hard, they don’t take care of their bodies well enough and it’s noticeable as soon as the season begins. Reality sets in quick when they get hurt three weeks into the season, when their first step isn’t what it once was, they can’t take it to the hoop like they once could or get off a quality shot. Their foot speed is gone, their getting blown past by younger, fresher players, they don’t have enough lift, their huffing and puffing in practices and because of this their playing time decreases, and their stats dip.

Some players crumble when the decline comes, others just embrace it and try to make the most of their time in the league, some gun for that “comeback season” the year after but it’s too late, the muscles were inactive during the off-season and then they got rundown by an 82 game season.

Then there’s Kobe Bryant, who just doesn’t allow that crazy shit to happen.

Sadly, the media begins writing about the decline in these players before the season even tips, they make the judgement in training camps and preseason games. “Man, he has lost it”, “He’s done!”, then the player will make a nice little play and everyone will shout “He’s turning back the clock” making the athlete feel even older, putting him in a rocking chair as a 33-year old.

Then retired players that started to chill out late in their careers by laying off the intense training and making poor nutrition/lifestyle choices will talk about how Father Time is undefeated.

It’s a cycle. But Kobe Bryant aint hearing that garbage, and if you say it, he’s going to prove you wrong. That’s what he has been doing for the past few years. For the past four years, coming into every season, critiques, analysts and journalists of all sorts have counted Kobe Bryant out, for literally no reason! It’s like it’s the cool thing to do. It gets a reaction, people read it, then they talk about it for weeks.

Then Kobe comes out drops 27 a game, blows past the young guns and dunks on big men, hit’s game-winners, guards the other team’s best players (not as much as he did in his prime, but still does), and shows no signs of slowing down.

It’s because he refuses to be that guy. He is a different type of beast. This man truly wants to be great and be a top 2-5 player in the league for his entire career. There’s no way Kobe Bryant actually believes that there is a better basketball player in the world than him. Not LeBron, not KD, Melo, Chris Paul or any of these guys.

Kobe Bryant still believes he is the best basketball player in the world and he will believe that as long as he is training hard in the off-season, taking care of his body, eating right and making the adjustments he needs to make the be in that elite group of players.

He’s been doing this for years. Take a look below at Bryant’s numbers every four years from the time he was entering his prime as a 22-year old. It’s incredible how he has consistently produced the same each year for this long.

2000-01 (22-years old): 28.5 points, 5.0 assists, 5.9 rebounds per game in 40.9 mpg.

2004-05 (26-years old): 27.6 points, 6.0 assists, 5.9 rebounds per game in 41 mpg.

2008-09 (30-years old): 26.8 points, 4.9 assists, 5.2 rebounds per game in 36.1 mpg.

2012-13 (34-years old): 27.3 points, 6.0 assists, 5.6 rebounds per game in 38.6 mpg.

Forget longevity, that’s consistent greatness. That’s just every four years since he entered his prime, the years in between are all similar numbers, (except the monster years in which he averaged 35.4 ppg in 05-06, followed by a 31.6 ppg season in 06-07).

This season should be no different. The biggest concern coming into the year for Bryant was his physical health and athletic ability. Many assumed his athleticism would be completely gone and he would just do his damage off of jumpshots, in the post and at the free-throw line, his stats would take a hit and the Lakers would suffer. Instead, Bryant is exploding to the rim, he is able to get off his shot anytime he wants, when he isn’t shooting he’s the main playmaker, using his first step to get into the lane and dish it to a teammate.

Through the first four games of the season, Bryant is averaging 24.8 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists per game in about 30 minutes per game. If he stays healthy, you can expect his numbers to be right around his usual averages.

The Lakers may not make the playoffs, but Kobe Bryant is going to ball out and silence a lot of people. He put in serious work this off-season and it is showing. He is proving the doubters wrong yet again. That ESPN NBA Rank isn’t looking too good right now.

The five-time NBA Champion loves the game, he respects the game, he wants to be on top of the charts and he works his ass off to stay there. Bryant has seen many big names from his generation vanish, or stick around as shells of their former selves. He fears that. But he’s put in the work to avoid it.

Longevity is cool. Players “stay healthy” in the off-season, eat just right, and say the right things to ensure they can continue playing in the league, having fun, playing the game they love, and of course continue making millions. But Bryant isn’t about that.

Remember, Kobe Bryant didn’t push himself this past year and a half just to come back and have a good final run before he rides off into the sunset. Bryant has made it clear many times, he is not going to stick around averaging 18, 19 points per game, that isn’t good enough for him. As long as Kobe is in the league, he needs to be a dominant force, the moment he feels like he can’t be a dominant force, he’s gone. Bouncing from team to team, trying to show everyone he’s still got it, testing his body isn’t an option, the moment Bryant see’s his numbers decline and realizes his body can’t do what it once could, he is gone.

Sure, players can recover from this injury and come back, but would they be able to perform at a high level? Keep in mind, Kobe’s definition of “high level” is much higher than most players is in the league, were talking at least 24 points per game, being or at least always in the discussion as the best player on the floor every night, being able to close games out, make plays and just have an overall impact on the game.

Bryant didn’t just recover his body in the past year and a half, from the looks of it, he may have made it stronger than it was before he had the injuries in 2013. That’s whats amazing about this whole thing.

The way Kobe is taking care of his body in his final years is similar to how Michael Jordan was doing it in his final years as a Chicago Bull. The crazy thing is a 36-year old Bryant looks more explosive than the 36-year old MJ did, and Jordan didn’t deal with two major injuries at the end of his career like Bryant has.

Earlier this year Phil Jackson said that Kobe may not be a better player than Jordan, but he trained harder.

You can’t find an NBA player with the will and determination that Kobe Bryant has. He has legitimately conquered Father Time.

There is only one other athlete in the world that can match Kobe’s work ethic this late in his career, his desire to continue his rigorous training, his ability to remain elite late in his career, not show any signs of slippage and stay disciplined and that man is boxing champion Floyd Mayweather.

Bryant, like Mayweathter was a super-freak athlete in his prime, he dominated his sport off his athleticism and achieved greatness when he combined that incredible athleticism with his fundamentals, skills and iq, these days both Mayweather and Kobe’s go to weapon is their skill and their smarts, but that athleticism is still very much there and this makes them even more dangerous. It’s like they’ve maximized the skill set just incase their athleticism does decline significantly, but they’ve worked even harder to take care of their bodies so that it doesn’t.

Floyd Mayweather is 37 years old, he looks 25, to this day he is still incredibly quick, he goes as hard in the 12th round of a fight as he does in the first, his reaction time is insane. The guy is a beast and it’s because he took care of his body late in his career better than athletes in their prime do.

Mayweather was a gifted athlete just like Bryant, but he took his performance in the ring to another level because of his incredible work ethic. He doesn’t smoke, he doesn’t drink, he eats clean, he trains his ass off 2-3 times a day leading up to his fights, he stays in amazing shape so that when it’s time to fight his athleticism isn’t an issue. Once Mayweather’s body and athleticism is where he wants it to be, he can make his opponents look foolish off his skill, smarts and defense.

balldontstop

In a feature for Sports Illustrated, Bryant even compared himself to Mayweather when discussing these final years of his career.

“Maybe I’ll be slower. Maybe I’ll lose quickness. But I have other options. It’s like Floyd Mayweather in the ring. There’s a reason he’s still at the top after all these years. He’s the most fundamentally sound boxer of all time. He can fight myriad styles at myriad tempos. He can throw fast punches or off-speed punches, and he can throw them from odd angles.”

For years, Mayweather’s critiques have been waiting for him to slip, but he just doesn’t let it happened. The undefeated boxer has a resume that not many in the history of the sport have, he is arguably the greatest ever and he got there because of his work ethic and he continues to stay on top because of his discipline and commitment to keeping his body in peak shape.

There are many similarities between the Black Mamba and Money Mayweather, but the one that shines brightest is their dedication to their craft and their consistent work ethic. These dudes trained hard and trained smart to make sure their performance never slipped and that’s why it hasn’t.

What Kobe Bryant is doing right now is epic and even though were just four games into the season, he needs to be applauded for it. The man suffered an Achilles injury that could  have ended his career, yet 18 months later he’s moving around like it’s 2005.

We don’t see the off-camera stuff, the sacrifices that are made, the 5 am workouts, the two-a-days, the extra rep in the weight room after your muscles fail, the jumping, the sprints when you feel like you can’t breathe anymore. Foam rolling and stretching twice a day can get pretty annoying too.

It will be an interesting year for the Lakers, their currently 0-4, and as much as it would sting Kobe if the Lakers were to miss the playoffs, he’s been doubted on and counted out so much in the past year and a half that he has put himself on an individual mission to prove to himself and to the world that he is still one of the best players in the NBA, once he gets that out of the way he’ll focus on trying to get this squad to another NBA Finals. How much longer can he do this for? Till he gets burnt out, and when he does, he won’t be training as hard in the offseason, and when he stops training as hard in the offseason he will most definitely call it a career.

The Lakers may not be too fun to watch this year, but you have to tune into see what Kobe Bryant is doing. One of the greatest players in the history of the game, a guy who has done it all is still on a mission and it’s a beautiful thing to watch. It has never been this easy to root for Kobe Bryant, just sit back and appreciate what we saw and what we’re seeing. A living legend, balling out in the final chapter of his career.

Kobe Bean Bryant is a beast. Without a shadow of a doubt, the hardest working player in NBA history and it’s showing now more than ever.

Father Time is no longer undefeated.

1 Comment

  1. hey

    February 24, 2016 at 3:55 pm

    npfx.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *