Jan 11, 2012, 2:14 PM EDT
Six years ago, if Kobe Bryant dropped 48 points in a game, we called it Tuesday. It seemed like nothing out of the ordinary. There were a couple highlights on SportsCenter, his fantasy owners patted themselves on the back, and then we pretty much moved on because we saw this all the time.
But in 2012, Kobe’s wrist is supposed to hurt too much, he’s too old, and his Lakers trying to evolve the offense away from him toward Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. The Lakers are no longer the favorites to represent the West in the NBA finals. They are on the downslope, their leader no longer capable of carrying them to the promised land.
Kobe eats that stuff up.
He dropped 48 on the Suns and it’s news now. No guy in the league for 16 years has ever scored that many points. For Kobe it’s just another chance to prove you wrong. Check out his post-game quote, via friend of this site Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times Lakers Blog.
“Not bad for the seventh best player in the league,” Bryant said in a shot at the ranking a panel of ESPN writers gave him this offseason.
Maybe Michael Jordan was the only other player who could take a perceived slight — like only being the seventh best player in the NBA or a playoff loss from six years ago to the Suns — and have it fuel him for a Tuesday night regular season game in January. Kobe remembers everything.
With that comes nights like Tuesday. He came out hot — 17 first quarter points on 8-of-11 shooting — and at that point coaches and teammates just get out of the way because when he is hot there are few like him. His confidence and belief in himself can still fuel monster games.
With it also comes nights like last week’s 6-for-28 shooting games. He was clearly ice cold and yet his confidence and belief in himself is such that he keeps shooting through the slump because he is sure next one will fall. There are no mid-game adjustments to pull back and feed the rock to others. It’s not how he is wired.
Like a character out of a classic Greek tragedy, Kobe’s greatest strength is also his weakness. Always has been, it’s just that before the injuries and miles piled up on his body, the downside didn’t show as much.
But go ahead and believe that he can’t keep up this 29.5 points per game scoring average while shooting 46 percent. Keep thinking he can’t carry the Lakers deep into the playoffs like he used to. That’s just more fuel to the fire for him.