Kobe Bryant has played more near perfect basketball games than almost anybody. There were so many nights when, on both ends of the floor, he seemed to play entire games without errors. Mistake-free. Kobe was so highly skilled, so determined and dedicated, and set such high standards for himself as a player that the game often seemed automatic to him — at least from a spectator’s view. But maybe the strongest part of Kobe’s legacy is how he adjusted his game as his physical abilities changed, much the way Michael Jordan had before him. Kobe could always soar, but he played a more grounded style in his later years, reserving his acrobatics rather than relying on them. He’s been a true pleasure to watch for any real basketball fan.
Kobe may have announced his retirement, but he’s not through. There’s a season to play. It’s interesting to note that though there have been fewer marvelous efforts in this latest stage of late-career Kobe Bryant, there have still been some. It’s remarkable — and fits with the narrative of Kobe’s constant growth as a player — that it was just this year that he set his own personal record for assists in a game. That’s right, in January of 2015 in his 19th season in the league, Kobe dished out 17 assists (a career high) in just 32 minutes of action against none other than LeBron James’ Cavaliers. (His previous high of 15 assists had come in 2002 against Michael Jordan’s Wizards.)