Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant is entering his 19th season in the NBA. He's logged 45,567 regular season minutes in 1,245 games. He's played the 13th most minutes and in the 25th most games in NBA history. You can add 8,641 playoff minutes in 220 games too. Only Tim Duncan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have played in more playoff minutes and only Duncan, Abdul-Jabbar, Derek Fisher, and Robert Horry have played in more playoff games than Bryant. He's been around a lot and the five-time champion has carved out one of the most successful careers in NBA history.
He'll appear on the cover of the latest issue of Sports Illustrated with a story by Chris Ballard on Bryant. On the cover and in the article, Kobe tells us, "I'm 70 in basketball years." The 35-year old shooting guard is creeping toward being one of the oldest players in the NBA, but considering the mileage he's put on his body since coming straight from high school, his statement about how old he is in basketball years makes sense.
You can also tack on the two big injuries he's suffered over the last 17 months with the Achilles' tendon tear in April of 2013 and the kneecap fracture he suffered six games into his comeback in December of 2013. Those put immense wear and tear on a player, especially a player in their mid-30's trying to remain one of the elite players in the NBA. Kobe knows he's had to evolve his game and agrees with detractors and pundits saying he won't be what he was when he comes back this season.
“So when I hear pundits and people talk, saying, ‘Well, he won't be what he was.' Know what? You're right. I won't be. But just because something evolves, it doesn't make it any less better than it was before,” Bryant said.
Unfortunately for Kobe, he'll be re-joining a Lakers team that doesn't look ready or capable of pushing for the playoffs in the hyper-competitive Western Conference. Although, he seems to like a challenge so don't expect him to back down from trying to get them there. Let's just hope he has the help to make his 19th season much more relevant in the history of the NBA.