The Lakers are coming off a third straight championship and set to make a run at their fourth. The season gets off of to a disappointing start with Shaq missing the first 12 games due to off-season toe surgery. This provides Kobe an opportunity early on to take control of the team without Shaq in the line up. Things don’t start off to well for both Kobe and the Lakers as they get off to a poor start which has them at one point 8 games under .500. It is not until February 6th, 2003 that the Lakers get over the .500 mark for the first time in the season. It is at this exact point in the season that it becomes apparent of Kobe’s desire to take over the leading role on the team and attempts to carry the Lakers back to upper ranks of the Western conference. Kobe goes on a string of 9 straight games of 40 or more points and 13 games of 35 points or more; in this month of February Kobe becomes only the third player in history to average at least 40 points per game in a month.
Here are the highlights of Kobe’s 2002-2003 season:
9 consecutive 40+ point games; 4th longest streak of its kind and joins Michael Jordon and Wilt Chamberlain as the only players to have had such a streak.
13 consecutive 35+ point games; 4th longest streak of at least 35 points.
Set an NBA record 12 three pointers in one game. (record stands today)
Scored a season high 55 points against Michael Jordon and his Washington Wizards.
Averaged 40.6 points per game in a month; only third player in history to average 40 ppg in one month.
Career highs in rebounds (6.9), assist (5.9), steals (2.2) and 3pt% (38.3); these remain career highs to this day.
Averaged 30.0 points per game; reaches the 30 ppg mark for 1st time in career.
Kobe’s historic offensive run catapulted a Laker team that was uninspired and had been ineffective up to that point. Starting from the beginning of Kobe’s 40 point streak the Lakers finished out the season smoking hot at 28-9. However, due to the incredibly slow start the Lakers were only able to earn the 5th spot in the West and eventually lost to the Spurs in the 2nd round of the playoffs.
2002-2003 MVP Voting:
Player, Team (1st place votes) Total points
Tim Duncan, San Antonio, (60) 962
Kevin Garnett, Minnesota, (43) 871
Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers, (8) 496
Tracy McGrady, Orlando, (4) 427
Kevin Garnett: 23.0 ppg, 13.4 rpg, 6.0 apg, 1.6 bpg, Minnesota record 51-31
Tim Duncan: 23.3 ppg, 12.9 rpg, 3.9 apg, 2.9 bpg, San Antonio record 60-22
Kobe Bryant: 30.0 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 5.9 apg, 2.2 spg, L.A. Lakers record 50-32
In what was possibly the finest all around individual season of Kobe’s career to date and without question the best up to that point only 8 of the 119 of the media panel thought he was worthy of a 1st place MVP vote. Despite Kobe’s prolific offensive numbers which nobody in the NBA had seen outside of Michael Jordon or Wilt Chamberlain Kobe finished a distant 3rd.
The Lakers disappointing team record and that fact that Kobe played along side another dominant player in Shaq had a significant effect on the voters. What was conveniently missed is that the Lakers roster outside of Shaq had aged quickly and no longer productive. Shaq missed significant time in this season and contributed to the slow start. The voters ignored that the Lakers played at a 75% winning percentage in the last third of the season due to Kobe’s astonishing offensive explosion. The shameful response of the voters was not deserved and not in any way representative of Kobe’s amazing season.