NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Kobe Bryant acknowledges the best days of his brilliant career might be in the past. He still wants to play in another NBA All-Star game, though.
The 16-time All-Star made that much clear while sitting out Sunday's 2014 edition with nagging pain and swelling in his left knee, stemming from a broken leg. He said he would even be interested in entering a future 3-point contest.
Playing in an All-Star game "means you're one of the best players in the world," Bryant said shortly before Sunday night's game, which he watched from the bench in a tan suit. "It's obviously a goal of mine."
The Los Angeles Lakers star is trying not to delude himself about how much longer he can play at the level to which he's been accustomed. He has played in only six games this season, fracturing his tibia shortly after his return from an Achilles tendon injury.
Asked if he was concerned his body might be starting to give out, he responded, "Of course. Absolutely."
"That's part of the excitement of the challenge, that level of uncertainty: Is this it? ... Are my best days behind me?" Bryant said. "To have those conversations with yourself and not be intimidated by that and ... not succumbing to that is part of the challenge."
As for the Lakers, who are 18-35 and virtually out of playoff contention, Bryant sees a chance for a quick turnaround.
"What we have coming up this offseason with the cap space, and what we have ahead of ourselves seems to be right in the Lakers' wheelhouse, in terms of turning things around pretty quickly," Bryant said. "We've had summers like this, and they have never really faltered. They have normally made really sound and excellent decisions that put us right back in contention."
DUNKS GALORE: For those fans who felt confused or letdown by a revamped slam dunk contest, the new rules for which were widely criticized on social media, they could always look forward to the All-Star game itself, dunk fest that it so often is.
There were a total of 37 dunks in the 48-minute All-Star game Sunday night. Most of them were provided by Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin, who had eight in the first quarter alone and finished with 11. Many came on alley-oop lobs and most of them were slammed down hard, drawing oohs and aahs from the crowd. Griffin finished with 38 points, four short of tying the All-Star game record.
Not surprisingly, he had a pretty high shooting percentage, going 19 of 23 from the field (82.6 percent).