In Sports Illustrated's annual ranking of the top 100 NBA players, Kobe Bryant is again the highest ranked Lakers player. After missing the majority of last season due to a knee injury, after tearing his Achilles the previous season, and attempting to return to form at age 36, the magazine's website decided to rank the future Hall of Fame as the 24th best player in the association. From SI:
If… If … If. That’s the first and last word when it comes to Bryant, who is coming back from an Achilles injury that ended his 2012-13 season a week before the playoffs and a knee injury that cut his 2013-14 season short after just six nondescript games.
Many Lakers fans will probably disagree with this ranking, stating that it is too low for such an accomplished player. Sports Illustrated even goes on to allow:
The "ifs" continue from there. If anyone can do it, his legion of fans would argue, it would be Bryant. And, if he were really in trouble physically, the Lakers wouldn’t have given him a two-year, $48 million deal last November, right? Such a long layoff from meaningful basketball requires that Bryant slip from SI.com’s top 10 to a spot where he is surrounded by others with uncertain fates and injury issues. But if he can somehow push back against Father Time, even just for a season, Bryant will get an opportunity to do what he seems to love more than almost anything: make his media doubters look bad.
This is the scenario we are all hoping for, and we will have to wait until the season and, you know, actual games to get a better idea of where various players should actually be ranked. Go read the entire rankings list if you want your basketball fix until training camps begin in the next few weeks.