In his second season after Shaquille ONeal was traded to the Miami Heat, Bryant, now indisputably the man, embarked on one of the most ferocious and unrelenting offensive seasons in league history.
With more offensively talented weapons on the floor, Bryant diverged his offensive responsibilities compared to his aforementioned 05-06 years, but was just as or arguably more effective despite his the difficulty of his shot profile.
Becoming the oldest player ever in NBA history to score 60 points, Bryant walked off the court showered by the same fans who supported him for the majority of his adult life, and into the metaphorical sunset as one of the most astute and passionate athletes Los Angeles, and the world had ever laid their eyes on.
The combination of his overwhelming usage rate of 37.8% 100th percentile among combo guards that year, and his career high and one of the lowest assist to usage ratios in the league 10th percentile made for one of the most dominating on-ball seasons in history.
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Yet, like the epitaph of his basketball career, Bryant refused to go out on anything else but his own terms. After missing significant time in the seasons to follow, Bryant would manage to play in 66 games and bask in his farewell season.
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With a supporting cast made up of the likes of Aaron McKie, Devin Green, and Von Wafer, Bryant was forced to carry the Lakers offense at an astronomical rate against defenses that had only one priority when designing their gameplan against L.A.
Bryants understanding of his own limitations and where the NBA had evolved into was evident, and necessary for his ability to perform. He was no longer able to play above the rim, or even attack with the nimble ease he once could.
In honor of Kobe Bryants 40th birthday, lets take a look back at the subtle adjustments the Black Mamba made in three of his most notable seasons.
With expected efficiency declines across the board, Bryant made one last ditch effort to survive in the game in true Black Mamba fashion, by adapting to the new NBA.
2005-06 Season The Kobe Show
The once standard bearer of midrange jumpers, opted instead for the perimeter as 41 percent of Bryants attempts that season came from behind the arc.
Among the multitude of individual accomplishments, and the five championship banners currently hanging in STAPLES Center that Bryant helped shoulder, laid obstacles and uncertain career arcs in which he had to learn how to both assimilate, and adapt to.
Bryants 646 two-point attempts were the third lowest of his career, only behind the season prior where he played in only 35 games, the season before that when he played in only six, and his rookie season.
Yet, like he had been planning for it every day since he was drafted in 1996, he entered STAPLES Center on April 13th, 2016, for the final time as an active professional basketball player and did what only he could do leave on his own terms.
2015-16 Season The Final Chapter
The 37-year-old hoisted up 467 three pointers in his final season, and despite playing reduced minutes and missing 16 games, was the second most of his career only behind his magical 2005-06 season.
For two decades, Kobe Bean Bryant helped in both shaping and representing Los Angeles Lakers basketball forever in unprecedented fashion.
His shot profile that season was not unlike other campaigns, just severely more inflated. For one, Bryants 502 attempted threes were tops of his career while simultaneously also attempting the most midrange attempts of his career, dwarfing the two previous season totals combined.
Bryants offensive barrage ultimately led to his first ever NBA scoring title, but unfortunately the Lakers season culminated in a crushing seven-game series loss to the heavily favored Phoenix Suns in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, paving the way for his next stage, and evolution.
In what would become one of his most well-rounded seasons of his career, culminated with ranking in the 95th percentile in assist percentage among wing players, sporting his highest +/- of his career, and finally winning his fourth NBA championship, and first without ONeal.
Bryants new found trust in the then iteration of the Lakers was made evident through his on-ball numbers. Compared to his aforementioned season with a 37.8 percent usage rate, the 18 time all-star allowed slightly more offensive freedom to his teammates as he dipped to a 32.8 percent usage rate.