Well, this is the hangover. Much like the one I placed myself in on Saturday morning following a heart-breaking Friday night, this is it.
It’s the reality that Kobe Bryant won’t be suiting up for the remainder of the season (or the playoffs if the Lakers make it) after rupturing his left Achilles tendon, and could very well never be the same again.
However, it’s also time to reflect upon one of the greatest individual seasons the Black Mamba has ever put on display.
He bled for this team. He sweat for this team. And finally, he shed tears for this team.
All of it was in an effort to give his team a chance to make the playoffs and possibly win a championship in the end.
Make no mistake about it. The Lakers may have been fighting for the eighth spot in the West, but Kobe Bryant still saw the Larry O’Brien trophy at the end of the journey; and he pushed himself to the fullest possible level to give his team and this great city of Los Angeles all he could, to grasp it for the sixth time.
He certainly gave us a show and did it in a manner that only Kobe Bryant is capable of; full of passion, flair and determination.
Along the way, he adapted his game numerous times in an effort to will his team to victory.
First, he came into this season shooting lights out (well above 50 percent).
Then, he altered his game on January 25 to became a facilitator after sensing the need to distribute the ball–averaging 8.5 assists up until the All-Star break in the process.
The Eight-Game Stretch
Following the All-Star break, Kobe had a remarkable eight-game stretch in which he averaged 35.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 6.9 assists; all of this on 55.6 percent shooting from the field and 47.8 percent shooting from behind the three-point arc. It was a stretch that rivaled–or in some people’s view, surpassed–LeBron James’ six-game streak in which he averaged 30.8 points on 71.7 percent shooting from the field, along with 6.7 rebounds and 6.5 assists.
After all, Kobe had this fiery dunk over Josh Smith against the Atlanta Hawks during his stretch:
Kobe’s stretch also came with this savvy breakaway dunk to put the game out of the New Orleans Hornets’ reach, while bringing out the “Mamba Bite” in the process:
Lastly, Kobe’s final game of “The Stretch” came with three nearly impossible three-pointers to force the game into overtime against the Toronto Raptors; a game in which the Lakers would go on to win, 118-116:
That’s not necessarily a knock on LeBron James, but rather a fascination with the fact that Kobe Bryant was able to compete with and even stand out among some of these other great players (James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, etc.) who are in their respective primes, at 34 years of age and with 17 seasons (plus multiple playoff appearances) under his belt.
That particular stretch of games earned him the nickname “Vino,” which was in reference to the perplexing notion that Kobe Bryant was appearing to be better than ever in his 17th year of play.
Next Page: Kobe’s Incredible Conditioning