ESPN's annual off-season NBA player ranking finally got around to reaching Kobe Bryant, and it was much earlier than anticipated. ESPN ranked Kobe the 40th-best player in the league, meaning there's 39 players they're putting ahead of the Black Mamba in his returning season.
What does this mean? Not much, really. It's not surprising there's heavy doubt he can find his way back into the top-echelon of players after missing extended time due to rupturing his Achilles and then fracturing his knee. Kobe' s looked sharp through preseason, but he'll have to carry that through an 82-game season to ultimately prove he's all the way back to being Kobe Bryant.
For whatever it's worth, before he went down with the Achilles injury he was playing some of the best basketball of his career. From Feb. 20, 2012 (post All-Star break) until his Achilles injury in April, Kobe was averaging 28.5 points, seven assists and 6.1 rebounds per game on 46 percent shooting.
As you can imagine, social media is on fire with fans and analysts taking aim at Kobe's low ranking, including George Karl, who suffered a playoff exit or two at the hands of Kobe:
What are your thoughts on his ranking? Too high, too low, just right or who cares?