Kobe Bryant's No. 25 ESPN Ranking Isn't as Ridiculous as It Sounds

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterOctober 25, 2013

SHANGHAI, CHINA - OCTOBER 17:  Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers greets some fans during Fan Appreciation Day as part of the 2013 Global Games on October 17, 2013 at the Oriental Sports Center in Shanghai, China. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

An outrage! A calamity! Preposterous!

I know—I said the same thing when Master P was voted off Dancing with the Stars.

But Kobe Bryant as the No. 25 player in the NBA this season? I can live with that. 

However, I understand the bewilderment Bryant's adoring and loyal fans must be feeling. Especially with Chris Bosh's mug sitting just above their man at No. 24. 

OK, so maybe 25 is a little high. There are a few guys ahead of him I'd pluck out. But the tier he falls in sounds about right when you factor in all the facts and variables. 

And I'm no a Kobe hater. This isn't about taking the chance to diminish his stature or wave the overrated flag. The dude might be top 10 all time. 

Just not in 2013-14. 

It wasn't too long ago that we were wondering if we'd even see him this year following that ugly Achilles injury. Now that we hear he's working out, it's as if many have already upgraded him back to elite status.

I'm aware of the Mamba's special healing powers. I wouldn't even be surprised if he meets weekly with Mr. Miyagi in a remote location.

But the latest reports still have Bryant without a timetable to return. "I have no idea," said coach Mike D'Antoni on Oct. 21 (via ESPN's Dave McMenamin) when asked about the availability of Bryant. 

So come on, fellas. How are we going to go bizerk over a ranking that makes him the No. 25 player in the league—and nobody even knows when he'll be able to play? 

Not only that, but at 35 years old having missed an entire summer of basketball, how are we even sure what level he'll perform at once back? We're talking about a ranking for this upcoming season—not based on what he's done over the past 15.  

The playing field just isn't equal given what's taken place over the last six months. Had Bryant been healthy and coming off a routine offseason, then sure—he's a top-10 guy. But that's not the case, and the uncertainty surrounding his situation has to be taken into account. 

/Getty Images

Let's not just throw his name at the top because of his legendary status. It's not as if he's been carrying his recent teams to overwhelming success. Despite a loaded roster, Bryant dominated the rock last year like never before, leading the NBA in shot attempts and finishing No. 3 in usage rate. 

With Bryant in complete command of the team, the Lakers just weren't very good. His value has to take just a little hit from that, no?

If I'm placing bets, I'm investing in rising stars like James Harden, Paul George and Stephen Curry for the upcoming season—guys who are entering their primes and taking their teams with them.  

And I'm selling stock in 35-year-olds without a timetable to return from severe injury—even if it is Kobe Bryant. 

"Ranking the best" of anything is always an imperfect science. If you want to argue Bryant should be top 20, go for it. I won't fight ya'. 

But you have to accept the cloud of uncertainty that now hovers over Bryant's immediate future. And it's that uncertainty that makes his ranking at No. 25 justifiable. 

Until Miss Cleo announces that Bryant will return to form and ultimately hold up physically, his ranking really isn't as ridiculous as it sounds.