The latest example occurred during Sunday night's key 99-98 win over the Atlanta Hawks. Bryant hit the game-winning layup and several other clutch shots en route to a masterful 34-point performance. But when he's on the floor doing what he does, don't think of him as the Black Mamba any longer .
Just calll him "Vino" -- the Italian and Spanish word for wine.
That's because like a fine wine, Bryant has gotten better with age, if that wasn't obvious enough. He's off to one of his best seasons in his 17 years, and his legs look as spry as ever. Case in point was this vicious dunk over Hawks shot-blocker Josh Smith.
Vino. Not only does it fit, but monosyllabic nicknames are cooler anyway.
The numbers for the 2012-13 campaign are other-worldly when considering age and miles on Bryant's legs. He's averaging 27.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.6 assists in over 38 minutes per game. He's getting it done defensively as well, averaging 1.3 steals per contest.
More importantly than anything, however, he's found the right balance offensively that has his teammates playing their best ball of the season when they desperately need to. Steve Nash is starting to utilize his perimeter shot more often, while Metta World Peace is doing less shooting from deep and taking more high-percentage looks. Antawn Jamison and Steve Blake are fitting nicely into the rotation off the bench and making major contributions.
Maybe everyone's drinking a little bit of Bryant's Vino, because this old team is looking like it's found some youth. Granted, their transition defense still won't be fixed overnight, if at all given their lack of team speed, but if they can mitigate that by executing cleanly and not turning the ball over, they'll have a chance to sneak into the postseason and could surprise some teams.
So what else is better about the new moniker?
Bryant tweeted that one of his friends gave him the name, which is a step in the right direction, considering he gave himself the Black Mamba designation. Plus, it's apropos for what he's done this season and will need to do in order for the Lakers to have any real chance at success in the playoffs. In addition, Bryant spent many of his formative years in Italy, so there's that.
It's also hilarious that some of Bryant's followers think that he's somehow turned into a guy who's a drunk tweeter, or in other words, the exact opposite of what he's been throughout his entire career. The notion that Bryant would put himself out there in such a way is far from accurate for a player who prefers to work out at ridiculous hours of the night instead of hit the club scene.
It doesn't matter why the nickname change happened, but it did and it's glorious. Hopefully, it sticks. Kobe's embraced it and fans should, too.
The Black Mamba is now officially Vino. Sounds like a bit of fun.
Michael C. Jones covers the Los Angeles Lakers and the NBA. He writes regularly for SB Nation and is the Editor of Sports Out West.
Catch up with him on Twitter@MikeJonesTweets.
- Sports & Recreation
- Los Angeles Lakers
- Kobe Bryant
- Atlanta Hawks