There will be plenty of similarly sized and even equally talented players with all of the athleticism and competitive drive and well-honed skill, not one of them permitted to play anything resembling Bryant's game on the NBA level, because now we know that one shouldn't.
Let's not get all bogged down in specific and arcane numbers with this but rather appreciate the extent to which Bryant was a special kind of artifact: not merely something other than the model of offensive efficiency so prized by current analytical understanding, but quite proudly and defiantly the opposite. He was a high-volume shooter of long and often comically contested 2-pointers, exactly the shot that all teams are now conditioned to avoid. He didn't so much work within a system as create one as a byproduct, often helping his teammates by as much accident as purpose -- the "Kobe assist" in fact coined to describe a Bryant miss with a high likelihood of an offensive rebound that leads to an easy putback, the basketball equivalent of just getting the puck on the net.
NBA writer Mark Deeks of Sky Sports joined the Bernstein and McKnight Show on 670 The Score on Monday, and he put Bryant's game in some historical context.
"He straddles eras," Deeks said. "He joined the league just about as Michael Jordan was still in it. He mimicked Michael Jordan and then became inimitable himself when the analytics era changed the game around him. And yet, you can play like that if you can play to that level."
Deeks' observations end up becoming an obvious confirmation of Bryant's individual greatness, in that it's probably just assumed that he'll be the last to have such an approach.
"Basketball is a bit homogeneous these days," Deeks said. "Where everyone tries to play in the same style, but it's more about ability than style. Some of Kobe's shots were poor. It doesn't matter though. If he wasn't the best of all time, he very nearly was, and if he can do that playing in a style that nobody's used to defending, that just made him more enigmatic."