Kobe won’t let age hold him back

By Mubarak Salami

Being 40 years old is commonly identified as the entry into old age for athletes. Forty is the beginning of the end, the age where the human body begins its inevitable downward spike and halt in growth.

Kobe Bryant is 36 years old — close to the end, but not quite there. However, according to ESPN, Father Time has already caught up to the old veteran and his career is virtually over.

Last week, ESPN released its annual player rankings, which ranks all the players in the NBA from 500 to one. Bryant came in at the No. 40 spot on the list.

Forty is the atomic number of the element Zirconium. It is also recognized as the “poor man’s diamond” within jewelry circles, the cheap, knock-off version of its more valuable relative.

Sure, Kobe Bryant is not what he used to be, but 40th? No, not even close.

Let’s remember whom we are talking about. We are talking about Kobe Bean Bryant, the Black Mamba.

Yes, the past two years of his career have been completely decimated by injury, but if Bryant has taught us anything over the span of his career, it’s that his work ethic is second to none.

Forty or “4-0” is derogatory slang used to refer to mall cops and security guards.

Throughout his career, Bryant has been known for his fiery, competitive attitude, as well as his unparalleled belief in himself and his abilities on the basketball floor. Some might call it arrogance; others might call it supreme confidence.

Call it what you want, but whatever it is, that killer instinct is exactly why I refuse to write Bryant off.

Forty is the highest number ever counted to on Sesame Street in the show’s history.

Obviously Bryant is not the player he once was. He is not going to blow by defenders with an explosive crossover or rise above 7-footers for a thunderous, tomahawk jam like he might have years ago. But 40th? I think not.

Basketball is much more than speed and strength. It is a game that requires things like fundamentals, footwork and basketball IQ, all of which Bryant will have, no matter his age.

Forty is the customary number of hours a full-time employee is expected to work per week in the U.S.

Bryant is the closest thing the NBA has seen since Michael Jordan, No. 23, retired. When Bryant retires, his legacy as one of the greatest ever will be questioned by none. However, his best days are behind him and consequently, he has had to reinvent himself.

He can no longer score as easily as he used to, though he has found other ways. He knows how to get to the free-throw line, how to maneuver and contort his body in ways that invite contact. Above all, he knows how to put himself in situations where he can succeed. Skills such as these only improve with time and experience.

Forty is the number of spaces in a standard Monopoly game.

I don’t know how effective he will be this year, but I do know that Bryant has spent the past eight months rehabbing, doing everything humanly possible to prepare himself to play basketball at a high level.

Minus 40 is the degree at which Fahrenheit and Celsius correspond, the only point where the temperatures are equal to each other.

Bryant understands the nuances of basketball in ways other players can only imagine. He makes everyone around him better. He is a floor general and a teacher on the court. Even if he is not scoring, he still has an impact on the game.

In the Bible, Noah’s Arc survived the Great Flood for 40 days and 40 nights.

Kobe Bryant has lost a step or two, but he’s still Kobe Bryant. To think there are 39 players better than Bryant is ludicrous. The notion is so ridiculous, I felt compelled to compose this proclamation denouncing its absurdity.

Forty is not where Bryant ranks in the NBA. It’s not a number that will come to define him or his success this upcoming season. It is not a number that accurately illustrates the extent to which Bryant’s overall skill might have declined.

It is none of these things. It is just a number, less than 41 and more than 39.

Mubarak is a senior in LAS. He can be reached [email protected] and on Twitter @justmubar.