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Oct 9, 2015
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19 NBA seasons

32,482 points

17- All-Star Selections

5 championships rings

1 NBA MVP

These are Kobe Bryant's notable numbers throughout his basketball career so far. A couple of days ago, the Los Angeles Lakers' superstar got another number linked to his game: 93.

That number is Kobe's current rank based on ESPN's annual NBA player ranking. That means, of all 450 active players overall, the Black Mamba still belongs in the upper echelon as the 93rd best player in the Association. All good, right? Well, that's if you consider Trevor Ariza (no. 94) being almost at par, and the battle-worn Luol Deng (no. 92) being only slightly better than the future Hall Of Famer in this coming 2015-2016 season.

In the 2014-2015 season, the popular sports channel put an injury-returning Kobe at the No. 40 spot, for which the proud Los Angeles Laker retaliated by calling them "a bunch of idiots." That same season, he surpassed Michael Jordan on the NBA's all-time scoring list, and even led the league in scoring at one point before getting sidelined once again with a season-ending torn rotator cuff injury. He finished the season with averages of 22.3 points, 5.6 assists, and 5.7 boards—he also recorded an average player efficiency rating (PER) of 17.69. LeBron James listed a 26.01 PER last season.

Kobe is still mum on his current player ranking, but considering that he plummeted 53 spots down to his current spot—and with 92 players viewed better than him—it's safe to say that Mr. Purple and Gold is definitely not happy.

Man, it's like ESPN is goading the whole Mamba Army to go to war. Here's their commander, NBA analyst and Kevin Durant's not-so-BFF, Stephen A. Smith, voicing out his frustrations on ESPN's First Take, calling it blasphemous:

So, do you agree with ESPN ranking Kobe as the 93rd best player in the league? Or do you think the Mamba is still an NBA elite and deserves a higher rank? 

Here's the nitty-gritty: Kobe is now entering his 19th NBA season as a battle-worn, 37-year-old NBA veteran. He's also coming off a major shoulder surgery and hasn't seen major action since late January of this year. He's just also two years removed from suffering a devastating torn Achilles injury. Evidently, Bryant has been on a steady decline physically for a good three to four years now. Unless he can take a sip of Tim Duncan's secret anti-aging potion, Kobe will have to watch his minutes and acclimate himself to more ice baths to retain whatever vigor and athleticism he has left if he wants to finish his rumored final NBA season.

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His shooting has also flunked from 42 percent during the 2013-2014 season down to a dismal 37 percent shooting clip last year. We can still remember how his prided turnaround fadeaway jumpers betrayed him last season. (Though, yours were worse, Keifer.)

His first shot back in the NBA during the preseason game between the Lakers and the Utah Jazz on October 4 clearly isn't helping his case:

Don't worry though, because after a couple of minutes, Byant asked for the ball again and swished his first bucket of the year.

He also looked active the whole game, drilling a couple of pull-up jumpers and delivering nifty passes such as this:

Earlier today, October 9 (Philippine time), the Lakers fell short against the Toronto Raptors, 107-95, in their preseason game at Ontario, Canada. It might have been a loss, but it sure got Laker Nation smiling as Kobe netted 16 points in under 22 minutes of play. He was also active on both ends of the floor, and often was the first one back on offense during fastbreaks—which is a good thing, since it proves that the old man can still run.

Yes, it is still the preseason, and all the games being played are nothing but a warm-up for the coming grind. However, though it may still be a small sample, it's really nice to see Kobe all relaxed and springy every time he steps on the floor. His shots are also falling, and you can see his composure every time he has the ball.

With a more potent roster and a couple of talented young bloods in D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, and Jordan Clarkson, Kobe can now pick his spots and can veer away from chucking too many ill-advised shots like what he used to do in the past. He still has great court vision and is a keen passer when he wants to. He might no longer have his hops, but his basketball IQ is definitely off-the-charts. That's one vital piece that he can share with his teammates if he wants the team to succeed.

So how's Kobe doing? The old man is doing fine. He can still play ball, bros. There will be some games where he'll look like the 93rd best player in the league, though there will be also be some nights where he can be the ninth or third best player in the game. And if you're a fellow Laker nut, we're sure you're also wishing for the latter.

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Images via NBA.com and Silverscreenroll.com
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