Kobe Bryant shot a combined 16-for-48 in the two ass-kickings the Lakers absorbed over the weekend. Even the bad guys from Rambo III are all, "Jesus, man, that's a lotta terrible shooting." The friggin' Ethyl Higby Charm School doesn't have that many misses.
Friday night against the Spurs, he missed his first 10 shots and finished 1-of-14 for nine points. His shot chart is over there on the left; I love how his one made shot is quite possibly the worst shot he took in the entire game.
Somehow that 1-for-14 isn't the funniest or most memorable number after the weekend. Neither is it the ghastly 19 misses on Sunday night, nor the fact that the Lakers' opponents, the Warriors, scored two more points in regulation (136) than the Rockets and Thunder combined for earlier Sunday evening (134).
Nope: 38.9 is the funniest number in the NBA right now.
That's Kobe's usage rate through 10 games. Usage rate, for the unacquainted, estimates the percentage of team possessions that a player "uses" when he's on the court; basically, it tells you how frequently that player ends offensive possessions, with either a shot attempt, a free-throw attempt, or a turnover. Kobe's usage rate is 38.9, meaning that through 10 games, nearly 40 percent of the Lakers' possessions are ending via a Kobe shot, a Kobe free throw, or a Kobe turnover.
That number ... that's a big-ass number! Among guys who play enough minutes for their stats to matter, it's the highest in the NBA; in fact, the gap between Kobe's usage rate and the second-highest (DeMarcus Cousins, at 33.3) is bigger than the gap between the second-highest and the 18th-highest (Marreese Speights, 27.8). Hell, if the season ended today, that would be the highest single-season usage rate in the three-point era.
At 36, Kobe is chucking more than Michael Jordan ever did. More than Allen Iverson ever did. More, even, than 27-year-old, peak-of-his-athletic-gifts Kobe Bryant did, back in that bananas 2005-06 season we all remember as the year he didn't even pretend to care about anything other than scoring as many points as he could. If the NBA season ended right now, his current 25.2-shots-per-36-minutes pace would be the highest in over 30 years; his true shooting percentage, meanwhile, is 40 points lower than that of any other player who has attempted more than 23 shots per 36 minutes in the three-point era.
Kobe stans will rush in here to claim that Kobe is chucking with world-historic frequency because he has to. "What other option do the Lakers have?" they will ask. "Do you want Wes Johnson taking those shots instead?" Which almost makes sense, except that the Lakers are 1-9 and have been blown out more often than not, which seems to suggest that, as options go, "have old-ass Kobe take all the shots" isn't much of one. They couldn't be more than one game worse if they took those shots away from Kobe and gave them to Ronnie Price. They couldn't be more than one game worse if they took those shots away from Kobe and gave them to Mark Price. Hell, dig up Vincent Price, stick a jersey on him, and duct-tape him to a rolling furniture dolly, and the Lakers' winning percentage changes by a measly 11 percentage points.
The thing I love the most about these numbers is that, whether they're a function of necessity or proof of Kobe's unhinged selfishness, they're funny either way. If Kobe is using a world-historic number of possessions to chuck up bricks because his teammates (and Byron Scott's scripted offense) are just that goddamn bad ... that's funny! It's funny when a team has to rely on a 36-year-old with bionic legs taking 25 shots a game just to produce barely enough offense not to lose by 40 every night.
On the other hand, if he's using a world-historic number of possessions to chuck up bricks because he just doesn't give a fuck anymore and has determined that passing Michael Jordan on the career scoring list is the only thing that can be accomplished this season ... that's funny too! It's funny when a team builds itself around a 36-year-old with shredded legs and he responds by tuning out his teammates and gunning shamelessly for a personal milestone.
There could be no funnier athlete in this spot than Kobe Bryant, the most self-serious athlete in all of sports. The chucker-on-a-bad-team role makes boring sense when held by, say, Voshon Lenard, or Chuck Person, or whoever. But: this is Kobe Bryant! The Black Mamba!
Picture him sitting down to a power lunch with Arianna Huffington, discussing knowingly the habits and obligations and perquisites of greatness. Picture him filming some somber, gravid TV commercial about, like, the drive and determination to be unstoppable, or some shit. Picture him studying game tape, in the dark, alone, the solitude of the true craftsman, devoted to the craft of victory, eyes narrowed, seeing through the recorded actions to the deeper basketball truth, the battlefield leverages and vulnerabilities. Picture him stalking through the bowels of the arena toward the locker room, focused, imperturbable, suit and shades, the warrior monk, the basketball James Bond, the Man with a Job to do. And then, oh God, oh God, picture him going out and chucking up two-dozen contested 19-footers and losing by 20 to the fucking Hawks.
It's too much. I can't even bear it. My heart swells to bursting. This is the best time to be alive.
Photo via Getty; shot chart via stats.nba.com