The 2003-04 NBA season was a particularly trying one for Kobe Bryant. Not only was he dealing with the likes of the San Antonio Spurs on the court, but off of it, a sexual assault charge in Colorado took its toll.
Bryant would sometimes spend the day in court in Colorado and the evening on the floor with the Lakers. The previous summer saw L.A. sign Hall-of-Famers Karl Malone and Gary Payton, who teamed up with Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal to form a superteam that many expected to win the NBA championship.
However, integrating two new pieces like Malone and Payton wasn’t always easy, and the team took some time to find their footing. On May 11, 2004, the Lakers hoped to even their second-round playoff series against the Spurs at two games.
San Antonio had sailed to two straight wins at home, but when the series shifted to Los Angeles the Lakers grabbed the momentum.
Game 4 would be pivotal as the Lakers would either tie things up or fall into a 3-1 series hole, which would all but seal their fate. To make matters worse, May 11 was a date that Bryant was scheduled to spend in court in Colorado, after which he flew back to Los Angeles for the game.
After an exhausting day, one would have expected Bryant to struggle on the floor that evening, but he did the opposite, turning in one of his best playoff performances ever.
The Lakers needed to get a win over the Spurs and Bryant responded with 42 points on an efficient 15-for-27 from the field while also hitting 10-of-13 free throws. He contributed more than just points, however, also grabbing up six rebounds and dishing five assists to go along with three steals and a block in a complete performance.
O’Neal did his thing as well, tallying 28 points and 14 rebounds as the Lakers picked up a much-needed win to tie the series.
It as a seemingly hopeless scenario for Bryant but he managed to turn it into one of the best performances of his career.
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