If for no other reason, you have to envy L.A. Lakers fans for one thing: They don’t know the abject fear and nausea that comes with having their team clinging to a slim lead in crunch time and seeing Kobe Bryant wearing the bad guy’s costume, looking to strike a dagger.
Hornets fans re-familiarized themselves with that feeling last night, when Kobe knocked down a trio of three-pointers in a 90-second stretch of the third quarter — which would have been the game’s decisive sequence had the Hornets not been able to limit him to just two points in the fourth. Grizzlies fans knew it a few weeks ago, when their fourth-quarter lead disappeared thanks to Kobe’s multi-faceted attack of long-range, low-post and off-the-dribble buckets. As a Sonics fan, I knew the feeling on numerous occasions over the years, and even after adopting the Pacers this season, felt it again last month when Kobe delivered his patented mid-range pull-up in the final minute, which would have won the game were it not for Troy Murphy‘s miracle tip-in.
Notice how two of the three games just mentioned were L.A. losses, one of them was a win against a Lottery team, and all of them took place over the past five weeks? The point is that Kobe’s ability to come up with clutch buckets in any arena, against any opponent, on any day, isn’t just relegated for high-profile games and postseason battles; even in the most forgettable regular-season contest, he’s the most dangerous man in the League, never playing particularly up or down to his competition. Except for a few notable instances, he’s the same predatory threat every night.
I’m a full-fledged D-Wade supporter, an advocate for the much-maligned Vince and T-Mac, a 100% Duncan loyalist and part-time Dirk apologist. And in three to five years, I can foresee a League in which we’re having this same discussion about Brandon Roy or LeBron. But if I had to take one guy to get one bucket with everything on the line, I’d pick Kobe. And right now, there’s really not a solid argument you can make for anyone else.