NBA: #EndofKobe - sun setting on Bryant

Bryant’s poor start to the season has increased the likelihood that this year will be his last in the NBA.
Bryant’s poor start to the season has increased the likelihood that this year will be his last in the NBA.AFP

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - While Stephen Curry looks forward to more record-breaking exploits on the horizon, the sun is setting rapidly on Kobe Bryant.

As a study in contrasting fortunes, it doesn't get much starker than the chasm that separated Curry and the Golden State Warriors as they romped past Bryant and the hapless Lakers on Tuesday.

Curry, the reigning NBA MVP, was his usual bewitching self in a 111-77 blowout, scoring 24 points as Golden State entered the record books to seal the longest unbeaten start to a season in history at 16-0.

But while Curry and his team-mates basked in the well-earned plaudits after another stylish display, Bryant was left reflecting on a poor personal showing that underscored the 37-year-old's rapid decline.

Tuesday night represented the worst shooting performance of Bryant's career, with 1-of-14 from the field including 1-of-7 from three-point range.

Bryant finally finished with a mere four points, his litany of missed attempts including three airballs that drew gleeful cheers from the Warriors crowd.

The raw numbers of Bryant's 2015-16 campaign tell the story. So far this season his field goal average is 31.1 per cent, the lowest of his career.

He has also played 12 straight games scoring less than 25 points while averaging less than 50 per cent, the longest run of poor form in his career.

Bryant, seen laughing and congratulating Warriors interim coach and former Lakers team-mate Luke Walton after the match, admitted he was unhappy with his form but said the Lakers problems run deeper than him.

"My shooting will be better. I could've scored 80 tonight. It wouldn't have made a damn difference. We just have bigger problems," Bryant said after Tuesday's loss.

"I could be out there averaging 35 points a game. We'd be what, 3-11? We've got to figure out how to play systematically in a position that's going to keep us in ballgames.

"It's been tough. I just try to relax. Just got to stay calm in the eye of the storm. You can't have bravado and enjoy the times and then have times like this and kind of cower away from it. You've got to take the lumps as well."

Lakers head coach Byron Scott admitted Bryant had been "struggling" against the Warriors but insisted: "I got faith in Kobe that he'll be okay."

The assessments on social media were, predictably, less supportive.

"Kobe been in the league 20 years. Father Time is undefeated," national radio host Charlamagne Tha God wrote to his 1.24 million followers on Twitter on Wednesday, where a lively debate under the hashtag #EndofKobe was under way.

ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith reacted to Bryant's abject display by urging the five-time NBA champion to announce his retirement immediately.

"It's a damn shame that Kobe has to go out this way," Smith said. "But it is over. There's nothing he can do."

For many, Bryant's poor start to the season has increased the likelihood that this year will be his last in the NBA.

Bryant is currently in the final year of a lucrative two-year deal with the Lakers but has repeatedly declined to confirm whether he plans to play on.

Earlier in November, however, he hinted he was leaning towards quitting, revealing that he had no intention to seek one last payday with another franchise.

"If you asked me today, this would be my last year. But you never know," Bryant said. "I'm not playing anywhere else, no matter what. It's just not going to happen."