Game Seven Is Gut Check Time For Kobe Bryant

Basketball, J. Tinsley — By on May 11, 2012 at 11:00 am

For a future first-ballot Hall of Famer who has proven so much in his career and, arguably, the most accomplished player this side of Jordan, Saturday’s Game Seven marks one of the most pivotal moments for Kobe Bean Bryant.¬†

Following Tuesday’s Game Five between the Nuggets and Lakers which saw Andre Miller look more like Magic Johnson and JaVale McGee resemble a NBA Jam character, my best friend Brad (diehard Lakers fan) and I had this text conversation.

Brad: Bynum was in “I don’t give a f*ck” mode tonight.

Me: I ain’t gonna lie, though. When Kobe got in that zone, that sh*t was fun as hell to watch.

Brad: Oh yeah, man.

Me: I just knew the game-winner was going in.

Brad: Fisher makes that three. I predicted Bean would go 14-35. 14-32 tonight!

Me: Those are Iverson numbers.

Brad: HE MISSED 18 SHOTS, TINS. 18!

Me: That’s Kobe, dog. Like you said, a gift and a curse.

Brad: SMH. I can easily see a 15+ point loss on Thursday.

Brad obviously knows his team better than I do, because the Lakers marched into Denver looking to close the series out and head to Oklahoma City, but ended up getting housed by a Nuggets team who have the chance to do the impossible come Saturday night. Kobe came down with a mean case of the “bubble guts,” but to his credit, appeared to be the only Laker who gave a damn at times. Then there was the battle cry Bean once again was attempting to create parallels between this game and Michael Jordan’s now iconic “flu/hangover game” in the 1997 Finals.

Whether he was as sick as advertised, I could really give a damn, and I was actually more upset that the crazy lady didn’t run on the court again looking for Alex English since she obviously has a “Nuggets of yesteryear” fetish. Now look what we’ve gotten ourselves into. The most provocative set up in basketball – a Game Seven.

Saturday night’s game is big on many fronts. The Nuggets look to come back from a 3-1 series deficit. Metta World Peace and The People’s Elbow make their first appearance on a basketball court since nearly decapitating James Harden. Mike Brown is not about that “hot seat” life if the Lakers lose. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum – possibly through lack of involvement in the offense (or “softness” or immaturity), you know – appear to have mentally checked out of the series for the second year running. And we’re thissssss close from seeing Magic Johnson meltdown on Twitter and TV.

All that pales in comparison to one storyline. This game falls squarely on the shoulders of Kobe Bryant. Let’s get one thing clear. One thing painfully clear. There isn’t a basketball player currently collecting paychecks with more self-confidence than Kobe. There just isn’t, which is exactly why putting him in a “do-or-die” type game is so appealing. He embraces it. His legions of fans embrace it and so do his empire of haters. It’s how he has built his legacy by showing up on the game’s brightest stages and owner of the title “best clutch player since MJ.” He’s a fourth quarter assassin, living up to his own self-coined nickname, “The Black Mamba.”

But, and I pose this question with no malice in my heart, can he finally shake his Game Seven past? We all remember Game 7 vs. Portland in 2000 where he basically willed L.A. to the victory which ultimately kickstarted a dynasty. Plus, that alley to Shaq is one of the definitive plays since the turn of the century. Two years later in that same Western Conference Finals against the Kings, he turned in a magnificent 30-10-7 game. Not to be forgotten, however, the Kings went 16-30 from the free throw line and lost by six. From there though, the course gets shaky.

J. Tinsley

@JustinTinsley is stuck halfway between a dream and reality. The plan? To make that dream a reality.

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    6 Comments

  • Joe Simmons says:

    I think that Mr. Bryant is at a crossroads in his career. He has been the most dominant player on the court for most of his life and now that isn’t always the case. He still performs at a high level because he has tightened up his fundamentals and he has also developed his footwork to keep his advantages. I would never discount him because he has the heart of a champion but if they lose this one to the Nuggets everyone will be saying he is done. Trust me, if you hear it enough from everyone, you will start to believe it. Ask Eldrick Woods!

  • J. Tinsley says:

    Not the Tiger shot though, Joe…

    I still think L.A. will win this series. I’ve just got this weird hunch Denver will shoot horrifically while Ed thinks Metta World Peace will drop 30 or some crazy number like that.

    It is an interesting crossroads. If L.A. loses this game, Kobe will catch a lot of heat – fairly or not – and if he plays outta his mind, he’s Kobe The Gawd once more. There is no in between.

  • JT says:

    He has had some.cloudy game 7′s but this game win or lose won’t tarnish his legacy he’s put in too much work but he does need to win because the window of opportunity is closing for him as a dominate player. Who knows how long that German engineered knee will keep him feeling find. Who knows if can fight torn ligaments in the wrist for the whole season.. I think the Lakers will win on Saturday in all will be forgotten. But the thunder will be no easy out.

  • Really good piece, and I particularly loved the Home Alone reference.

  • Jawan says:

    I think Kobe has the “if this aint the finals then i dont care win or lose” mentality. He has yet to vanish in the finals but man that phoenix suns series was brutal….. He will win a series for you, but it has to be the most important one, the one with the biggest spotlight, that Diva mentality.

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