It's been around six weeks since Kobe Bryant played his now famous last ever NBA game. He would depart from a glorious 20-year career with a 60-point showing against the Utah Jazz at the Staples Center, but the career-long Laker had plenty of memories to recall far beyond his final outing.
The Black Mamba is a five-time NBA Champion, the 2008 MVP, and 18-time All-Star and two-time scoring champion, but in the process of acquiring his career-defining accomplishments, he definitely paid the price.
Kobe's body was a shell of its former self by the end of his two decades in the league. After suffering a fractured knee cap, a ruptured Achilles and a torn rotator cuff amongst other injuries, Bryant was left with little option but to retire at the ripe old age of 37.
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Part of the reason for the wear and tear Vino's body endured is the NBA schedule. The grind sees teams play 82 regular season games and if they were to go all the way in the playoffs, they could then play another minimum of 16 games or a maximum of 28.
Bryant thinks the current schedule and the amount of times franchises face each other makes the regular season encounters meaningless. For instance, the Lakers would face the Phoenix Suns four times a season because not only are they in the same conference, but they are in the same division.
“You can’t [just] lose five-to-10 games,” Bryant said. “If you’re going to do it, you’ve almost got to go quality versus quantity. If you’re going to shorten the schedule, then you’ve got to shorten the schedule and look to enhance your TV numbers substantially... because now every regular-season game is worth a s---.”
Bryant believes that packing 82 games into six months takes its toll and the presence of year-round AAU basketball means that it starts from a young age.
“Looking back, when I grew up, I played soccer until I was about 14,” Bryant said. “And so when I came back to the States [from Italy] when I was 14, that’s when AAU was starting to take off, and I literally played basketball all day, every day, every tournament, everywhere, which does nothing but wear the knee cartilage out—which explains why I didn’t have much cartilage left in 2003.”
Basketball games are 48 minutes long compared to the 90 minutes that footballers play, but any time spent on the hardwood is high-octane, intense, athletic work and that makes it an incredibly tough workload.
“You shorten the games, you shorten the risk for injury and things of that nature,” Bryant said. “It definitely helps.”
He has a point. If every franchise just played each other twice, home and away, there would be much more intrigue around the league when these meetings occurred and a better chance of seeing the best personal battles.
In their current state, if an organisation is in the midst of a long road trip or playing consecutive nights, their team on the floor is altered and its, perhaps, not a true matchup.
There would still be 58 games if every outfit faced off twice, would that not be enough? Having basketball virtually every night is certainly a perk for the fans, but at what cost?