Love Him or Hate Him; How Kobe Closes Determines Your Choice

No other player in NBA history has been as polarizing a figure as Kobe Bean Bryant.  Those that love him defend him to the death.  Those that do not, find fault in everything he does.

I, myself, lie somewhere in between. For, as much as I love Bryant and all that he has helped the Lakers accomplish, I cannot help but ignore the fact that I love the game more.

I’ve always felt that there was a right way and a wrong way to play the game.  When Bryant plays the right way, there are few who have done it better.  When he plays the wrong way, however, it’s quite a different story.

Let’s take the recent game against Miami as an example.

Early in the game, we had every reason to love Bryant.   As has happened too many times in the past, the Lakers big men shrunk in the face of another big game. Both Bynum and Gasol started the game tentatively and ineffectively; and Bryant responded by scoring the Lakers first ten points. He kept the game close, and carried his team the way a star should.

Bynum’s lone rebound in the first half was an obvious sign that he was set for an off night. And if that alone wasn’t cause for concern, than seeing Mike Miller out-rebound both Gasol and Odom for second chance points certainly had to be.

Keep in mind, much of the Lakers recent resurgence has been due to Bynum’s willingness to channel his inner Bill Russell on the defensive end, and on Gasol’s increased determination to attack the basket, at the other.

Neither of which occurred much against the Heat.

That Bryant is always up and ready to go for the biggest games, even when most of his teammates are not, is just one of the reasons why we love him.  But there was also a point at which the Lakers size finally began to take its toll.

Yet, despite this and shooting 38% for the game, Bryant refused to take his foot off the pedal.

With the game tied and two and a half minutes remaining, Bryant decided he would win this game on his own.  The next five Laker possessions belonged to Bryant and resulted in zero points, two turnovers and three wild attempts from three-point land; one, seemingly from just inside of half court, was taken with the game tied and about one minute still left on the clock!

Five consecutive trips that resulted in turnovers or shots from beyond the arc. Hard as I try, I just can’t love that.

As he did against Oklahoma City just a week prior, Bryant decided the last two minutes of the game were his alone.  Against the Thunder, Bryant made just one attempt in five consecutive tries in the last two minutes.  Fortunately, the Laker defense was able to keep the Thunder at bay and they escaped that game with a narrow victory on the road.

Against the Heat, they weren’t so lucky.

Next: Strength In Numbers

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