Let me take you back. Back to a time when Kobe Bryant was unhappy about his situation (not talking about Colorado). This Kobe, you see, had to will his team to every win. Otherwise he would have had to rely on the likes of Smush Parker and Kwame Brown. The year is 2006 and Kobe is doing his best to avoid a first round embarrassment at the hands of the Phoenix Suns. Just a year prior, Kobe’s Laker team (which actually had a better supporting cast) missed the playoffs entirely. But with some effort, his 2005-2006 team made the playoffs as a 7 seed under “newly” hired Phil Jackson. Turns out Jackson and Kobe had parted ways after the 2004 finals and had left on less than pleasant terms. I haven’t read it but I’ve heard Phil isn’t too kind to Kobe in the book he wrote during his hiatus from coaching. But they agreed to come together again to form the greatest tandem since…well since Phil and Jordan. The 2005-2006 season saw Kobe take 27.2 shots and 6.5 threes a game; both the highest for his career. But he had to. His team sucked and he was a superstar.
“Turnover? Yes, I think Turnover”
Flash forward to last night. For those of you who didn’t watch, Kobe took it upon himself in the third quarter to get the Lakers back into the game. At one point he scored 23 straight points. He wound up with 19 for the quarter (shy of Isiah Thomas’s Finals record of 25 – also in a loss) but his team actually lost ground to the Celtics. These weren’t easy shots either. He was making contested, off-balance shots and tipping in poorly thrown alley-oops. He couldn’t be stopped. But that was the problem. Every possession he demanded the ball and basically took the Celtics 1 on 5. Now, if the Lakers had played any defense during that stretch we might be saying Kobe’s performance was the greatest quarter a player has had in the Finals. The problem was he took the game out of his teammates’ hands. No matter how poorly they played in the first half, it’s a necessity to have them in the flow of a Game 5 on the road. Kobe didn’t see it that way. He went back into 2006 “I have to win this on my own” mode because his teammates had a poor half. Normally when Kobe is on like he was in Game 5, we see the lower jaw extension come out. That’s his, “I’m a badass and I KNOW it” face.
We didn’t see the face last night because his team was losing. For some reason Kobe can’t put everything together. He knows he’s a badass. And he is. But he’s got to realize that he can only be a true badass when he moves on from 2006. Act like it never happened. Kobe needs to trust his teammates and until that happens we won’t get anymore lower jaw extension. Then again I can’t say I’m disappointed by that. I hate the Lakers.