With 18,997 fans in the Staples Center erupting as time begins to expire, Los Angeles Lakers guard, Kobe Bryant, walks off of the court to find his seat on the bench with one finger in the air.

As the Lakers lead the Toronto Raptors, 122-104 with only 4.2 seconds remaining, his work is certainly done. 

“Ladies and gentleman, you have witnessed the second greatest scoring performance in NBA History!” FSN West Sportscaster Bill Macdonald utters.
 
When Macdonald woke up on the morning of January 22, 2006, I’m sure he thought it would be a normal day. He was simply asked to fill in for Lakers play-by-play announcer Joel Meyers, who had another broadcasting commitment that day while the team squared off against the lowly Toronto Raptors, who had an overall record of 14-26 at the time.

Never in a million years would he have dreamed that he would be witnessing Kobe Bryant score 81 points in the individual performance of the decade. Just one month earlier, Bryant had posted a season-low 11 points in the Lakers’ 102-91 victory over the Raptors in the T-Dot. What would be so different about this game?

At 27-years-old and in his prime, The Black Mamba had been on a tear in the 2005-2006 season. His old coach Phil Jackson had returned to La La Land, he was determined to lead his team back to the playoffs after missing them just one year earlier, he squashed his beef with Shaq, and he was leading the league in scoring.

Kobe Bryant couldn’t be stopped! In fact, On December 20th, 2005, he had just lit the Dallas Mavericks up for his career-high of 62 points despite playing only three-quarters. Entering the fourth quarter Bryant had, by himself, outscored the entire Mavericks team 62-61, the only time a player has done this through three-quarters since the 24-second shot clock had been in effect.

By taking him out of that game early, Phil Jackson was only setting us up for the inevitable explosion of one of the game’s greatest players of all time.

Bryant entered the game versus the Toronto Raptors on that epic January of 2006 with his grandmother in the audience.

“What a lot of people don’t know about that particular night (is that) it was my grandma’s first time watching me play in person,” he said in an interview a few years later. “She’s never seen me play. Even in high school, she’s never seen me play and we flew her out here from Philadelphia and she was at that game sitting with my wife and our daughter and she watched me play and it was also my grandfather’s birthday who passed away the year before that so a lot of people don’t know that and that night was made even more special because of that.”  

Rocking the No. 8, wearing a pair of black, white, and purple Nike Zoom Kobe 1’s, and a white wristband to match his white Lakers home uni, he was dressed to handle business. Although his team started the game slow, Kobe Bryant started out fast as he wasn’t faced with any double teams.

The Raptors entered half time with a 63-49 lead with Bryant dropping in 26 of those Lakers buckets. The second half started no different as the Raps went up by as many as 18 points early in the quarter, which only angered the legend.

Fueled by his team’s lack of effort, Bryant started dropping buckets faster than Twista’s lyrics. Pouring in pull-up jumper after pull-up jumper, deep three after deep three, and one lay-up after another, Bryant piled up 27 points in the third quarter and 28 in the fourth. He finished the half with 55 points and challenged Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 point record as he finished with 81 points on the night.

He gave Michigan fans (and the world for that matter) a night to remember as he torched Flint’s Morris Peterson and Detroit’s Jalen Rose, who were his primary defenders. After the final buzzer sounded, Bryant approached FSN sports reporter Patrick O’Neal for his post game interview still in awe of his performance with a towel around his neck. Responding to O’Neal’s question of what could he say about the 81 point game, Bryant responded with a boyish smile on his face and said: “Well you know, we wanted to win this game so bad and they jumped out to us on an early lead and my ankle was hurting me and I was a little tired but we needed to get this W so I had to push through it and I had a great performance.”

Bryant also added that: “I couldn’t have dreamed of this when I was a kid. It’s no way possible. It’s just a blessing from above to be able to play this game and more importantly get outta here with this W and that’s what really matters.”

Despite all of the attention that he did receive from this magical performance, he did get quite a bit of flack from several peers. The knock on his magical evening was that he only grabbed 6 boards, handed out 2 assists, 3 steals and one block, only cementing his everlasting hateration from the sports community (Cough cough, including my friend Meat from Western Michigan University, who is hands down the biggest Kobe hater…I’m sure there’s one in every town).

Besides my friend Meat, Vince Carter stated that he didn’t think  Kobe “is setting the right example for kids out there.” The great Michael Jordan also said that he wouldn’t have allowed Kobe’s 81 points to happen without fouling out.

Through all the hate, Kobe reached a zone that no has come close to reaching in this decade. Shooting 60.9 percent, he connected on 28 of his 46 field goal attempts in 42 minutes of action. He also dropped 7 of his 13 three-point attempts and 18 of his 20 free throws.

When the NBA produced a short documentary on the night for an episode of “Real NBA,” he spoke in descriptive fashion on how that night felt.

“When you get in that zone, it’s just a supreme confidence that you know it’s going in. Things just slow down, everything just slows down and you just have supreme confidence,” Bryant added. “When that happens, you really do not try to focus on what’s going on because you can lose it in a second. Everything becomes one noise, you don’t hear this or that. Everything is just one going thing.”

I am proud to say that I can tell my kids one day that I witnessed Kobe Bryant pour in 81 points!

*Here is the three minutes of greatness. Enjoy.

**This post can also be viewed at Slamonline.com

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The Best Since MJ Retired!!

The Best Since MJ Retired!!

 
 The writers of It’s Just Sports frequently disagree with each other. Sometimes these disagreements escalate to the point that we need a back and forth to settle our disputes in a little session we call Point-Counterpoint. It’s therapeutic. Pardeep Toor and Eric Woodyard debate the merits of Mr. Kobe Bryant this week.
*click on the pic to view this at It’s Just Sports. 

Since the dawn of time (or at least since 1996), man has asked the question, ‘What makes Kobe Bryant aka the Black Mamba so unstoppable?’ What makes his dunk so unstoppable? What makes his three-point so unstoppable? What makes his overall unstoppableness unstoppable?

This is Kobe Bryant! Need I say more? Nike did a great job at capturing the essence of the confidence and drive of this child prodigy turned NBA legend throughout their latest MVPuppets commercials.

He’s Tiger Woods on the hardwood, Marvin Gaye in La La Land, Ice Cube in a Lakers uni, Denzel Washington in Nike’s, Malcolm X in time-out huddles, Albert Einstein in … well, you get the point. He’s great!! He has consistently silenced his doubters one-by-one, but one question has hovered over the latter portion of his career…’Can he do it without Shaq?’

Quite frankly, I’m tired of hearing the question, and now its irrelevant because he has led his team to the Finals two straight years and to the championship this year — he finally DID IT without Shaq.

But the criticism was absurd, I think it was ignorant! Winning a title without Shaq wouldn’t have made or broke his legacy in the NBA because not only had he been on a championship contender without Shaq, he’s actually gotten better without him. The stats don’t lie! (…a la Bill Marshall)

Since Shaq’s departure from Hollywood, Bryant has averaged 29.9 points per game in the 5 years on his own as opposed to his 21.6 per game in the eight seasons with the Diesel clogging up the middle. He’s also won an MVP award, scored 81 points, scored 61 in the Garden, scored 62 in three quarters, multiple First Team All-Defensive recognitions, and the list goes on.

Now add four-time NBA champion to that, NBA Finals MVP to that, and one of the greatest statistical performances in Finals history to that! (…32.4 points and 7.4 assists per game to be exact).

He constantly stepped up in the season when it mattered the most, finishing the regular season averaging just 26.8 points, 5.3 boards and 4.9 dimes per game, he came on strong in the playoffs as he jumped his scoring up to 30.2, his boards up to 5.4, and his assists up to 5.5.

The efficiency he displayed during this run also gave effulgence to his troops, notably Derek Fisher and Trevor Ariza, in crunch time, so I don’t ever want to hear that he isn’t a leader.

Bryant will go down as one of the top-5 greatest players of all-time, joining the likes of Larry, Magic, Michael, and Wilt. A string of players known by just one name. And then there’s Kobe (…doesn’t that sound like it just fits?).

What he’s had to endure with his personal life is also amazing because it has not affected his performances or mental focus one bit out on the court. After the accusations in Eagle, Colorado, all of his endorsement deals were stripped, he was robbed of several MVP trophies, suffered several first round exits from the playoffs, as well as hindered from becoming the American icon that he was on his way to becoming beforehand.

This within itself should place him amongst the greats because they never had to endure the type of distractions that he had to deal with and still keep their focus on the game.

So say what you want to about Kobe Bean Bryant (He’s too arrogant! He’s a fake MJ! His Adidas shoes were ugly! He’s overrated! Lebron’s better!). There is one thing that you can’t deny and that is he will go down as one of the greatest players to ever play the game of basketball.

KOBE BRYANT FINALS MVP- JUNE 14, 2009

KOBE BRYANT FINALS MVP- JUNE 14, 2009

Unstoppable!

Unstoppable!

Since the dawn of time man has asked the question, ‘What makes Kobe Bryant aka the Black Mamba so unstoppable?’ What makes his dunk so unstoppable? What makes his three-point so unstoppable? What makes his overall unstoppableness unstoppable?

This is Kobe Bryant! Need I say more? Nike did a great job at capturing the essence of this child prodigy turned NBA legend throughout one of their latest MVPuppets commercials.

He’s Tiger Woods on the hardwood, Marvin Gaye in La La Land, Ice Cube in a Lakers uni, Denzel Washington in Nike’s, Malcolm X in time-out huddles, Albert Einstein in…well, you get the point. He’s great!! He has consitently silenced his doubters one-by-one but one question has hovered over the latter portion of his career…’Can he do it without Shaq?’

Quite frankly, I’m tired of hearing the question because he has lead his team to the promised land without the Big Fella for the second year in a row and looks like he’s on pace to finally DO IT without him (…As he showed in his 40 point outing last night in Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Orlando Magic). Not only do I feel like this question is obsurd, I also think it’s ignorant. Winning a title without Shaq will not make or break his legacy in the NBA because not only has he been on a championship contender without Shaq, he’s actually gotten better without him. The stats dont lie!

shaq-kobeSince Shaq’s departure from Hollywood, Bryant has played at a stupid high level! He’s averaged 29.9 points per game in the 5 years on his own as opposed to his 21.6 per game in the eight seasons with the Diesel clogging up the middle. He’s also won an MVP award, scored 81 points, scored 61 in the Garden, scored 62 in three quarters, multiple First Team All-Defensive recognitions, and the list goes on.

Bryant will go down as one of the top-5 greatest players of all-time! Joining the likes of Larry, Magic, Michael, and Wilt. A string of players known by just one name. And then there’s Kobe (…doesn’t that sound like it just fits!).   

What he’s had to endure with his personal life is also amazing because it has not affected his performances or mental focus one bit out on the hoop court. After the incident in Eagle, Colorado, he was left for dead as all of  endorsements were stripped, he was robbed of several MVP trophies,  suffered several first round exits from the playoffs, as well as hindered from becoming the American icon that he could have been. This within itself should place him amongst the greats because they never had to endure the type of obstacles that he had to deal with and still keep their focus on the game, except for maybe Magic.

So say what you want to about Kobe Bean Bryant: He’s too arrogant! He’s a fake MJ! His adidas shoes were ugly! He’s overrated! Lebron’s better! There is one thing that you can’t deny and that is he will go down as one of the greatest players to ever play the game of basketball. Period!

Is it possible to stop something that’s unstoppable? Is the answer to the question yet another question? We may never know. Yet in knowing the unknowing is unstoppable!

 

Video of the Week!

April 2, 2009

83007871AE008PISTONS_LAKERS

*This week’s video of the week comes from  behind-the-scenes at the Lakers-Pistons game. I talked to Kobe, D-Fisher, and John Mason (…Pistons Announcer). click on the pic to check out my video at SLAMonline.com! Leave comments too… 

Simply the best!

Simply the best!

*yesterday was potentially the best day of my life. Not only did I cover the game…I got to meet Kobe personally. I would like to thank SLAM so much for this access! These notes can also be viewed on their site, SLAMonline.com,  by clicking on the photo!

by Eric Woodyard

“It’s cool to love to win but it’s better to hate to lose…”
Nas, The N—-r Tape (2008)

If there’s one thing that can be said about Kobe Bryant, it is that he hates to lose. With such a burning desire to rise above the competition, why would he even think about a negative outcome?

Despite the Lakers success this season on the road, KB24 and the Lake Show have struggled recently in the Motor City. L.A. hadn’t tasted victory in the Palace of Auburn Hills since March ‘02, losing their last nine games against the Detroit Pistons. Although the days of dominance are long gone from the Pistons’ franchise, they still managed to defeat the Lakers, 106-95, on their home court earlier this season in the Iverson era.

With Kobe so close at last night’s game, I got a glimpse of how serious he takes the game of basketball. This inspired me to focus on his every move…

Pregame

After arriving only 30 minutes before the game because of car issues and finding my seat directly behind the Lakers bench, my eyes were fixed on Black Mamba. I didn’t even notice Aretha Franklin passing right by me. To be honest, I didn’t even care.

I watched my idol do his job. He was dressed in purple with yellow trimmings, showcasing a white No. 24 stitched on his fabric, a yellow wristband squeezing his left elbow, white tape on his ring finger, black and yellow, Nike Zoom Kobe IV’s tied to his feet, with tattoos on his arms billboarding his love for his family; inked in his time of turmoil.

His strength is documented, but his scrawniness baffled me. It doesn’t seem as if KB is so small until you see him in person.

As I watched him participate in the shoot around, the superstar took each shot seriously as he warmed up with teammate Trevor Ariza.

Catch. Pivot. Triple Threat. Dribble. Spin Move. Pull-up! Zoning out his atmosphere, Kobe did this over and over.

His approach to the game was more militant than any other player that I’ve watched. If you looked into his eyes, you could see that basketball to him is what Black Nationalism was to Malcolm X! (…yes, it’s that serious). His eyes lit up every time he touched the rock.

This is Kobe Bryant — the best to ever do it! (Yeah, I said it). Hated on so much, Passion of the Christ need a sequel.

Showtime

Kwame can't guard this.Kobe didn’t waste any time getting everything started as he manhandled the smaller Aaron Afflalo and any other defender that stepped in his path. With the absence of Allen Iverson, Rip Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace, KB was like a kid in a candy store, displaying his “He-Cant-Guard-Me” swag all night while filling up the stat sheet. He dropped 30 points, grabbed 8 boards, dropped 7 dimes and accumulated 2 steals.

The fans in the arena didn’t know what to do. Some cheered while some booed the living legend. At one point early in the 3rd quarter when he stepped up to the free throw line, half of the arena chanted “M-V-P!” while half showed hasty dissatisfaction. The noise didn’t bother KB though as he sank them both down. Take that!

He may be the most loved/hated athlete to lace up a pair of sneaks and from his actions during the game, and he has become aware of this and feeds off it. Nothing could throw-off his focus, as I watched the determination in his eye during every second that he was on the court. The same determination that has his team back in tact for another championship run this season. The same determination that has propelled the Lakers to four straight victories. This game would be no different.

The Lakers would win 92-77 over the Detroit Pistons.

Postgame

While waiting to get a few sound bites from Kobe, I decided to chat with Derek Fisher. When he spotted my shoes, Nike Huarache 2k4 in Lakers colorway, we had plenty to talk about.

“Man them are some of the best shoes to ever come out,” Fisher says.

“I know man, I love them,” I respond.

“Yeah, they’re really comfortable.”

“I know, didn’t you used to wear them too?”

“Yeah, I wore them when I played for Golden State. I loved them too.”

After we wrapped up our convo, Kobe walked out from the back of the locker room. Still inspired from his performance, I waited for all of the other journalists to finish up with their questions before introducing myself to him, giving him a run-down of what I do. He responded with great attentiveness, and we shook hands before he left to get on the bus to catch to plane to inspire another person in another city.

AP Photo

AP Photo

He’s clearly bigger. He’s clearly stronger. He has more publicity. His image is better. His overall statistics are better.

Why should there even be a question about if LeBron James is better than Kobe Bryant?

He lacks that killer instinct! Until the King gets that, he will forever be carrying Kobe’s jockstrap.

Last night at the Staples Center Kobe Bryant went so opposite of soft and showed the world why he is the best player on the planet by outdueling LeBron. The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers, 105-88, with Mamba dropping 20 buckets, 12 dimes, and grabbing six boards.  Even with a dislocated finger, Kobe had the burning desire to check the King for almost the entire game and take on the challenge personally.

Put it like this…LeBron was rather normal with Kobe on him. He only connected on 9 of his 25 shots for 23 points with four assists and nine rebounds. Why isn’t Kobe considered for the Defensive Player of the Year award?

As indicated in his Christmas interview with Magic Johnson, Kobe had to show the media that he was still the best in the game and he doesn’t look like he will be passing the torch anytime soon. Kobe had to show the world that he seeks basketball perfection. Kobe had to show the world that he wants to go down as the “greatest basketball player of all time.”

It was apparent from the jump that Kobe had an agenda. After losing two straight games, he had to up his level of intensity.

Despite his pre-game quotes where he said that he thinks LeBron is the MVP at this point, by the end of the night he may have been forced to eat his own words. Although one game may not be enough for the general public to decifer who’s the better player, all Kobe did in their first battle of the season was to solidify my argument that he is the best in the game…hands down!!