Los Angeles Lakers had a shocking campaign last season without their star player Kobe Bryant. The 35-year-old will be back fully fit for the 2014/15 NBA season, but this doesn't mean that the five-time NBA champion will ever return to his best.
Kobe Bryant has been preparing for the upcoming season with an array of different appearances across the globe. One of these appearances was in China earlier this month where he dominated a Chinese fan in a one-on-one battle.
Never the same
But the skills he showed during that friendly contest are not necessarily the tip of the iceberg, with Kobe plainly admitting this week that he is more than realistic about his future prospects in a frank assessment on Weibo.
"I accepted that I might not get it back. Once you let it go, then you don't play with the burden of feeling like you lost something. Instead, I gained something because I started to play more with this (mind), and less with my athleticism," Bryant posted on Weibo, a Chinese hybrid of Twitter and Facebook.
Kobe Bryant was answering questions on whether or not he has lost his bounce. And although the answer he gave was extremely frank and honest, it should not be a worry for Lakers fans.
Obviously all supporters of Kobe have to anticipate they will never see him at his best ever again, he's 35 at the end of the day. But there may still be life in the old dog yet, with Lakers trainer Gary Vitti claiming the superstar is now fully healed again.
And with Bryant ready to test his mental capacities as much as his physical ones going forward, Lakers fans shouldn't worry too much, with Kobe revealing that these skills are some of his best.
"You don't need to be the highest jumped or the fastest to be an amazing basketball player," explained Kobe as he gave Chinese youngsters tips on becoming a star. "All it is, is timing and fundamentals. Use fakes, pumps, look people off. When you can use deception, you're able to create space, and when you can create space you can get by anyone."