1 – Game 7 in the 2010 NBA Finals. This one is right back at you Boston Sportsguy. Kobe goes an abysmal 6 for 24 from the field in the ultimate decider: a Game 7 in the NBA Finals between the Lakers and Celtics. 6 for 24, 6 for 24, 6 for 24, that’s all we hear. Is Kobe, the ultimate fearless competitor, really a big choke artist in disguise? Does he have to turn in his 2010 Finals MVP like it’s a Heisman Trophy?
Come on! Kobe had a brutal shooting percentage in a highly emotional, highly charged, defensive battle. It was a straight up ugly game. The two greatest franchises in NBA history going at it, what else did you expect. Kobe knew his legacy was on the line (in some people’s minds) and he gripped the trigger way too tightly. He was, like everyone else out there not named Ron Artest (again, big ups to his therapist!), too charged up. The best audio from the game is Phil Jackson indirectly speaking to Kobe in a 4th quarter timeout, asking the team to relax. He may as well slapped Kobe in the face screaming, “just relax…. RELAX!!!” But Phil being Phil looked over the troops and calmly asked everyone to calm down.
The reaction? Kobe hit the boards HARD and pulled down 15 rebounds. People forget just how impressive that stat is. Here we are in the third quarter; the Lakers are down big with their superstar struggling on offense. Both teams are going at it and every possession is a very. very slow grind. Smash-mouth basketball if you will. Kobe finds a way to contribute and get his head back into the game by hitting the defensive boards. Finally the Celtics started to wear down and the Lakers found just enough offense to take the lead and eventually the 2010 NBA title.
These are the moments that really separate the superstars from the rest of the pack. Here is Kobe Bryant in the biggest moment of his basketball life and his offense simply leaves him. Instead of looking for a place to run and hide, Kobe found a way to contribute and even dominate by hitting the defensive glass. Again, a shooting guard was the second highest rebounder in the game with 15!
Michael Jordan gets a ton of credit for finding a way to beat the Pacers in Game 7 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals. He was fading down the stretch; a year of carrying the Bulls after back-to-back titles finally wore him down. Instead, he drove the lane and forced the Pacers to put him on the line, finding a way to contribute despite an off night from the field. What did MJ shoot in that game? A bland 9 for 25 from the field and 10 of 15 from the freethrow line. Yet we never hear about how MJ struggled in Game 7, instead he’s hailed as a true champion.
Kobe did the exact same thing, just on the defensive boards. Game 7 wasn’t a reason to prevent Kobe from getting the Finals MVP, rather it was THE REASON to give him the MVP.