BY PETER EMERICK (FEATURED COLUMNIST) ON FEBRUARY 9, 2012
No, I'm not a Kobe hater. I've got serious respect for the Black Mamba and what he's done in the NBA, but I still think that he's hands down the most overrated player who's playing in the league today.
Kobe isn't having a bad year, averaging 29.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG and 5.4 APG with a PER of 25.47, but there's more to those statistics than meets the eye.
Sure, Kobe's leading the league in scoring, but he's doing so by also leading the league in field-goal attempts with a whopping 599 on the year. Just to help put that number into perspective, the next closest player to Kobe is sharp-shooter Kevin Durant, who's put up 494 field-goal attempts on the year.
The absurd amount of shots that Kobe's jacked up this year wouldn't be an issue if the Lakers were dominating their competition, but they're not—which is in large part due to the offensive production that Kobe takes away from other players on the Lakers roster, like Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.
In addition to taking offensive production away from his teammates, Kobe's crazy amount of field-goal attempts is an issue because he's shooting at 44.4 percent from the field this year, which isn't anything to call home about.
Kobe's field-goal percentage of 44.4 ranks 70th overall in the NBA this season, which is a pretty low percentage and subsequent ranking for a guy who many consider to be the best player in the league today.
I'm not saying that the Black Mamba is overrated, solely because he's jacked up the most shots in the NBA thus far, while hitting only 44.4 percent of them. The major reason why Kobe is the most overrated player in the NBA, is because the way he plays the game is focused more on his personal production than on helping the Lakers win games.
If you ask Kobe, I'm sure he'll say that he's all about helping his team win games and ultimately winning NBA championships, but the reality is that the way he plays the game doesn't match up with that perspective.
Kobe is at the point in his career where he needs to realize he's not the same player he once was. He can't single-handedly lead the Lakers to an NBA championship and, luckily for him, he doesn't have to.
The Lakers don't have the deepest roster in the NBA, but they do have one of the most impressive trios in the NBA in Kobe, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. The more Kobe centers the Lakers' offensive production around himself, the more opportunities he takes away from two extremely capable players in Bynum and Gasol.
It's time for Kobe to realize that the Lakers don't need him to be the player he once was, scoring 35-plus points a night. Kobe needs to realize that the Lakers need him to be a more complete player, integrating his teammates into the offensive more than he currently his—until he does, the Lakers will continue to struggle and Kobe will continue to be overrated.
When you're hyped as the best player currently in the NBA, you've got to back that up by helping your team win—the way Kobe is playing so far this year isn't doing that on a consistent basis.
In a recent interview with ESPN's Bill Simmons, Larry Bird picked Kobe over LeBron James when he was asked about which former NBA MVP he'd rather play with. Not so fast though, as Larry Legend also had this to say about Kobe:
"Well I'd probably take Kobe, because of the fact that ... well, of course he wouldn't have been shooting as much as he does now."
Without directly saying it, Larry implies the same thing that I've been saying throughout this whole article: that Kobe shoots too much (well, at least a little too much). Larry would only want Kobe as his teammate if he shot the ball less, because Larry realizes that while Kobe has a winner's mentality, he's focused on his own production just a little too much.
Kobe's still stuck in the "I'm the best player in the world" mentality, which results in him forcing shots and hogging offensive possessions because he trusts himself more than he trusts his teammates. A year or two ago, that wasn't a problem because the Lakers were winning, but this year it's a different story with the Lakers sitting at a disappointing 14-11 overall.
Kobe buys into the hype built around him: that he, the Black Mamba, is the most deadly offensive talent in the NBA. While that might be true, it's not what the Lakers need him to be.
The Lakers need Kobe to be a more complete player by facilitating the game to his teammates rather than relying purely on his own talents. Until Kobe manages to do that, he'll continue to be the most overrated player in the NBA.
Kobe needs to realize that being the best doesn't just mean moving up the ranks of the all-time scoring leaders or averaging near 30.0 PPG.
Being the best means finding ways to help your team win, and that's what Kobe needs to start doing. If he fails to do that this year, the Black Mamba will continue to be the most overrated player in the NBA.
Looking back on his career, I'm starting to realize that dude is wildly overrated. He has never elevated his teammates games and he makes some bonehead plays in the pursuit to get his.