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Eli K's Page

Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 8 months ago

Kobe Bryant is the best player in the NBA.






Assigned to run point on the Daily Dime, I went in hoping to write about something or someone other than Kobe Bryant. Before tipoff, I thought maybe I'd look at the Jazz's oddball Andrei Kirilenko-Mehmet Okur-Carlos Boozer front line and how it's still not an ideal configuration, no matter how many games they won out of the gate. (And how their 2-3 record since Kirilenko returned from injury is an indication.)

Or maybe I'd write about Derek Fisher and how he really didn't want to go to Utah because his wife had just had twins at the time of the trade and he didn't know if he'd be buried on the bench behind Deron Williams and Dee Brown.


But then the Lakers got a head of steam and under a semi-directive to write about the winning team, I thought maybe I'd go with Luke Walton, who airballed an early J and next touch buried a 3, something he couldn't or wouldn't have done a year ago. Or put the spotlight on Maurice Evans outhustling the NBA's Charlie Hustle, Matt Harpring, and what a quietly terrific draft-night deal that was getting him for a second-round pick from Detroit. Or go the combo route, looking at how GM Mitch Kupchak is routinely skewered and yet looks like a Executive of the Year candidate for acquiring a host of role players in Evans, Ronny Turiaf, Vladimir Radmanovic and Jordan Farmar that suddenly makes the idea of dealing a few pieces for Kevin Garnett less of a strip-mine operation.


But then Kobe went and dropped 52 points Thursday in a 132-102 win on the team with the NBA's best record -- as opposed to the NBA's best team -- including crushing two dunks on the entire Jazz defense and did it all in a way that wasn't the least bit forced. I even enjoyed watching Phil Jackson irritably clean his glasses in the midst of Kobe's 30-point third quarter, going 9 for 9 from the floor and 10 for 10 from the line, as if the thought bubble over the Zenmaster's head was: "Yeah, yeah, I know you've got all that, but what about the triangle? Work the triangle, damn it. What about the ballhandling skills I put the team through? How am I going to get any love when you're pulling up and hitting bottoms from 25 feet? Show-off."


Actually, Kobe didn't just break the half-century mark on the scoreboard. He also switched onto Kirilenko when he started to heat up on Walton and kept him scoreless until the game got out of hand. Which, combined with Kobe's 15 free-throw attempts, is why all the talk of anyone being a better player is laughable. Only Steve Nash understands how to get his teammates going and yet take every big shot as well as Kobe does within the context of the game. And Nash simply doesn't have the physical tools to play defense the way Kobe can.


I understand. He doesn't do funny commercials. He seemed to be channeling all of MJ's mannerisms his first few years while denying any similarity. He has a nasty edge that he sometimes inflicts on people who meant him no harm. He doesn't have Shaq's seal of approval. The list of reasons those who don't like him is long and varied. But how many times does one man have to drop iodine tablets into the same village well to make it potable? How many times must Kobe demonstrate that no one in the league -- and I mean no one -- has his combination of skill, tenacity, understanding of time and score, killer instinct and ability to control the game at the both ends? And how many times must I be the one taking the flag and waving it?


Trust me, if you're sick of me sticking up for Kobe, I'm equally sick of having to do it. It shouldn't be this difficult to have the man recognized as the league's all-around best player. OK, so you don't like him. I'm good with that. But not respect him? Not give him his due? Anoint anyone who hasn't accomplished half of what he has as The King or The One or The Whatever? Ignore what every player in the league will tell you, even those who consider him arrogant and a little bit evil, that he's the best?


You in the back with the Raja Bell jersey -- you want to know why we didn't see this in the third quarter against the Suns in Game 7 last year? Answer: Because Kobe was playing on the knee that required offseason surgery. Because, unlike Game 7, the rest of the Lakers contributed at both ends from the get, which opened the door for Kobe to go off. There's no getting 52 against a good team (exempting last year's Raptors) unless your teammates are keeping the opposition honest. Otherwise, they're going to run double and triple teams at you with impunity -- something the Suns did and the Jazz didn't.


No doubt someone will poke some holes in his performance against the Jazz. Phil may even provide some ammo for it. All I can say is, you better get started now. This one won't be easy to ventilate. Or as a Cuban philosopher once exclaimed: "You got some 'splainin' to do, Lucy."

Comments (1)

Anonymous said

at 11:16 pm on Dec 1, 2006

Wow, Eli, did you write all of that this morning? I'm impressed.

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