Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is ranked above Carmelo Anthony and Rajon Rondo… ( Doug Pensinger / Getty Images…)
The rumors of Kobe Bryant's demise may be greatly exaggerated, but they're not exactly false.
The latest evidence is Bryant's player ranking in NBA 2K13. The 2K Sports video game franchise just announced that Bryant's player ranking (93) trails Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant (94), who graces this year's cover with Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose and Clippers forward Blake Griffin. Yet, Bryant still finishes ahead of New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (92) and Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo (90).
2K Sports has released some of the players rankings after its Twitter account sends out 1,000 tweets. So the rankings are still incomplete. Still, it's safe to say that Bryant finishes at least slightly worst than last year's third-place ranking.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, who finished higher than Bryant in last year's rankings, could widen the gap even more considering the Miami Heat just won an NBA championship.
These subtle changes reflect Bryant's continual fight to stay among the league's elite even as he battles heavy basketball mileage and injuries.
Bryant finished second last year after being the league's second-leading scorer (27.9 points per game) despite fighting through a torn ligament in his right wrist, post-concussion symptoms and a sore left shin. This after having an off-season procedure on his surgically repaired right knee in Germany. But Bryant shot 43% from the field last season, his lowest since his second NBA season. According to 82games.com, Bryant made only 32.7% of his shots in the last five minutes of games.
Still, it's possible Bryant's game could flourish this season partly because of the better supporting cast around him. Steve Nash, who was ranked 22nd overall with an 84 in last year's game, will run more pick-and-roll sets, organize the offense and free Bryant to move more off the ball. The Lakers still have a distinguishable size advantage in Dwight Howard (fourth overall with a 93 score last year) and Pau Gasol (12th overall with an 86). And Metta World Peace's task in defending the opposing team's top player will help Bryant conserve energy.
The video game unveiling on the player rankings also show that Anthony took a slight leap from his 91 score last season. Perhaps his prolific scoring with Team USA in the 2012 London Olympics boosted that. Rondo's 90 marks a five-point increase from last year's score. Consider his jump from the 2011 NBA playoffs to the 2012 postseason in points per game (14 in 2001, 17.3 in 2012) and assists (9.6, 11.9).
That's not enough to eclipse Bryant. Through his 17th NBA season, Bryant's grasp on staying the best in the league may have slipped. But he remains in reach.
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