Kobe knows how to put on a show.
The biggest reason for Bryant’s frustration in the All-Star game was that he wanted to give the fans something to talk about. When LeBron deferred (as he so often does in those moments) Kobe was noticeably upset. Part of our fascination with sports comes from talking about match ups between two giants of the sport. Its the reason in 2008 we were so intrigued by the Patriots and Giants, and four years later we were drawn in all over again. When the Braves used traveled to San Diego between 1993 and 2001 it was fun to watch the best pure hitter (Tony Gwynn) face the most cerebral pitcher many in our lifetime will see (Greg Maddux).
Then we have Sunday’s showdown between the Heat and the Lakers. Kobe, came into the game battered and bruised from a hard (and unnecessary) foul from Dwayne Wade in the All-Star game. He came into this contest feeling disrespected because of questions surrounding his age and frustrated due to uncertainty surrounding the state of his teams roster. So, decided he would put on a show in the place where stars are supposed to shine.
What a show it was.
Even though 18 of his 33 points came in the first quarter, the message was clear: Kobe sets the pace, Kobe finishes the game. While most were up in arms over comments made by Bryant saying he had no rivals during his career keep in mind that in a sport of winners all he’s done is win. I won’t go as far as saying Bryant is the best player I’ve ever seen (that title will remain with one Michael Jeffrey Jordan), but I can, without a doubt, say he is the best all-around basketball player in the game today. Period.
The proof came when Bryant didn’t go after Wade by means of a foul or war of words in the media. Instead Bryant went old school, putting up 33 points on 14-of-23 shooting in the Staples Center on national television, and beating the team with the best record in the NBA. Even overshadowing a stellar performance by LeBron James (25 points, 13 rebounds).
How did Wade do? 16 points, five turnovers, and he watched the last five minutes from the bench after fouling out.
That is the way revenge is done.
There are countless arguments regarding who the best basketball player in the NBA is today and Bryant should feel confident that it starts and ends with him. The five-time NBA champion knows how to finish, and regardless of how you break it down you need only look at his fist full of rings to know the end result.
That is, if statistics don’t do it for you.