Father Time is the only opponent of athletes that remains undefeated, but Kobe Bryant is doing a damn good job of keeping him at bay.
At 34-and-a-half years old, Bryant is a dinosaur compared to the 25.5 mean age of NBA players. However, Bryant still brings the ferocity of a Tyrannosaurus Rex every time he steps onto the hardwood.
Nothing makes this more apparent than his last week of play, which amounted to NBA Western Conference Player of the Week honors.
Last Wednesday, Bryant led the charge in a miraculous comeback on the road against the New Orleans Hornets in which his Lakers were down 25 points in the third quarter. He scored 13 of his 42 points during a 20-0 run in the last 6:22 of the game, which gave Los Angeles a 108-102 victory. Bryant also dished out 12 assists—this, combined with his 42 points, was something that hadn’t been achieved by a Laker since Gail Goodrich did this in 1971.
As if that performance wasn’t enough for Bryant, he also lead a comeback against the Toronto Raptors on Friday. This time with the Lakers down by 15 at home (and as many as 11 in the fourth quarter), Bryant hit a trio of three-pointers in the closing minutes of regulation, sending the game into overtime. Then, in the extra period, the “Black Mamba” struck again by driving down the lane and throwing down the go ahead dunk with less than 11 seconds left. He scored 41 points in the game.
This wasn’t the first time that Bryant had a great performance against the Raptors in Los Angeles—few will ever forget the night six years ago when he dropped 81 points on a helpless Toronto Team. Bryant’s 81-point performance on Jan. 22, 2006 was the second highest point total of all time behind Wilt Chamberlain’s 100. However, some would argue that Bryant’s performance was more impressive.
Bryant’s 81-point game is one of the greatest individual performances in Los Angeles’ sports history, and he has given the city countless memories over his 17-year career.
At 34 years old, Bryant’s will to win and strong work ethic is something of legend around the NBA. He has played through countless injuries and hasn’t missed out on significant time since his rookie season.
Last week, an athletic trainer named Robert shared an anecdote about Bryant’s work ethic on popular social news and entertainment site, reddit. The trainer was helping the US men’s national basketball team in preparation for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
The story begins with Bryant calling him at 3:30 a.m. hoping for some conditioning tips and drills, and the trainer obliged. Bryant had already been working out before he got there. They concluded the session at about 6 a.m.
Robert went to sleep only to show up back at the practice facility at 11 a.m., and he greets Bryant telling him good work exercising in the morning. He proceeds to ask Bryant when he finished up in the morning to which Bryant responds, “Oh, just now. I wanted 800 makes, so yeah, just now.”
Apparently, much like money and New York City, Bryant never sleeps. The story made it on reddit’s front page for the day, has amounted over 2,500 upvotes and appeared in multiple blogs all over the Internet.
Bryant’s recent strong play has sparked a new nickname, “Vino,” which is the Italian word for wine. The nickname comes from the implication that wine “gets better with age,” much like Bryant seems to be doing, as well as the fact that he also spent many of his childhood years in Italy.
He may be in the twilight of his career, but he surely hasn’t shown it this year. As tumultuous as the 2012-13 season has been for the Lakers, Bryant’s performances over the past couple months have been nothing short of extraordinary. He has willed the Lakers from eight games under .500 to the eighth seed in the Western Conference, which means that if the regular season ended today, they would be appearing in the postseason with the NBA’s best.
It’s an amazing feat for Bryant to be performing at this level and we in the Southern California area must remember to cherish his strong play now because it’s uncertain how much longer the Black Mamba will slither across the parquet.