The superstar dug deep within himself, finishing with 31 points, through an illness that would have sidelined most players and put on a performance that rivaled that of Michael Jordan's famous 'Flu Game'.
Unfortunately, no one will remember Bryant's gutsy display.
His healthy teammates spoiled the moment and perhaps a chance at a title, falling in embarrassing fashion in Game 6 of the opening round playoff series to the Denver Nuggets, 113-96. Bryant has now questioned whether or not the team has what it takes to hoist its 17th championship banner at the conclusion of the 2012 NBA playoffs.
How sick was he? He threw up on the bus on the way to the game, and said he had done so for hours prior in his hotel room. He took intravenous fluids all day just to be able to play. Not only was he sick, but he also had to play the game in Denver, Colo. at high elevation. The Mile-High City has a tendency to have an adverse effect on visiting players who are completely healthy, let alone suffering from symptoms that would cause nearly any normal person to miss work.
That's not Bryant's way, though; and unfortunately, no one could match his will.In fact, they couldn't even come close.
Whether it was the altitude, complacence, the Nuggets' defense, or all of the above, the supporting cast of the Lakers was a non-factor throughout the game. Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, two individuals who are key players in a potential title run, were all but absent from the game, amassing just 14 points between them. Gasol was especially bad, finishing with just three points.
The Nuggets clearly out-hustled and out-muscled the sorry-looking Lakers. While Bryant was using every bit of energy he had to put together a masterful game in his own right, his teammates were busy not hustling, failing to box out, and watching players like Ty Lawson knife through the entire defense.
Bryant will have some poignant words with his teammates, especially Gasol and Bynum. They deserve every bit of criticism that comes their way. Bynum has regressed and is showing the now infamous immaturity that has caused so much drama in Los Angeles over the course of the 2011-2012 regular season. With so much gone wrong throughout one game, it's going to be a tall order for the Lakers to get it all right prior to Game 7 on Saturday night at Staples Center.
Metta World Peace will be back from his suspension in Game 7, but will it be enough to save the Lakers' season? The volatile player formerly known as Ron Artest was cited by Bryant as the only person he could count on to give maximum effort on a nightly basis. But it's going to take more than World Peace to move past a Nuggets team that has nothing to lose and the confidence in knowing it can compete with an elite team like the Lakers.
The bottom line is simple. The Lakers' big men will have to put Game 6 behind them and realize that no team can match up when they play to their capabilities, not even the Nuggets.
Michael C. Jones is a Yahoo! Featured Contributor in Sports and covers the Los Angeles Lakers and the NBA. He has been published in southern California's Press-Enterprise and Examiner.com.
Follow Michael on Twitter @MikeJonesTweets