Out with the Black Mamba and in with "Vino."
That's right, ladies and gentlemen. "Vino" is the nickname that Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant has now bestowed upon himself, as he told reporters following the team's victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Mar. 3. The reasoning is that at 34 years old, he continues to get better with age.
It's hard to dispute that argument, given the Lakers' performance as of late. Bryant has been a completely different player over that stretch, finally balancing his knack for scoring with keen passing abilities.
Over his last 10 games, Bryant has averaged 32.3 points and 6.9 assists per game. Through that stretch, Los Angeles has gone 7-3.
Look at the last four games, however, starting with the Lakers' win over the Hawks, and Bryant's numbers are more indicative of someone 24 years old as opposed to 34. More importantly, the numbers are so off the charts that one cannot help but look at them and think, "Only one player is doing all that?"
Through those four games, Bryant is averaging 36.7 points and 7.5 assists per game, and his percentages are through the roof. He has shot 52 percent from the field and an astounding 44 percent from three-point range. Thus, it's no surprise that the Lakers won three of those games.
Needless to say, Bryant definitely deserves his new nickname. He has seemingly gone from a ball hog earlier in the season to one who is essentially playing like a scoring point guard from the generations of old, and he has been able to make this adjustment at an age where most NBA players start to slow down or even think about retirement.
Just like a fine wine, Bryant has indeed become better with age. Sure, we always knew he was a good scorer, but his passing and playmaking abilities are aspects of his game that we're only just starting to see him use regularly.
As much as he loves being in the spotlight, the man has found a way to get his teammates involved while also being the star, making himself a complete player and also making his team better.
That all being said, L.A. fans should be cheering heartily for the "Vino" to continue being poured, as it will almost definitely ensure a Lakers postseason berth and a shot at yet another championship.