On Jan. 22, 2006, Kobe Bryant scored an astounding 81 points against the Toronto Raptors. On Jan. 4, 2013, Kobe Bryant joined Twitter. On Jan. 22 2013, as they do so often even on days that aren’t the anniversary of the performance, NBA TV will replay Bryant’s demolishing of the Raptors squad from 2006. And because it’s 2013, Bryant will live-tweet what he calls his first viewing of the game. On Monday afternoon, in the hours before his team’s loss to the Chicago Bulls, Kobe sent this out:
Letting u know that tmr I'm gonna watch my 81 game for first time @nbatv 1pst.I will be tweeting during. Time to rest and focus now#win
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) January 21, 2013
This is incredibly cool, and incredibly Kobe. Most NBA players don’t have an occasion this significant to look back on and tweet through, because most current players’ highlights are either championships (things that are culminations of events dating back years, hardly something to live-tweet in two hours time) or statistical hallmarks and highlight-reel throwdowns performed by those that haven’t won a ring yet – any such celebration years after would appear gauche.
As any Laker fan will tell you, Kobe already has his rings. And he’s got his highlight, even if it came in a ring-less season. It’s the perfect time for a distraction like this, especially with Bryant needing a break from his team’s troubles, as his Lakers have lost three straight and are in the midst of a wearying seven game in 11 day run. The timing doesn't matter, because this is a two-hour exercise. It’s not like NBA players are doing anything else of significance in later afternoon in a road day between games.
We’ve expressed admiration for Bryant’s night many times at Ball Don’t Lie before, and I personally believe it to be a superior outing to Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point night from 1961.
Kobe’s outing ranks second on the all-time list of points scored in an NBA game, but Wilt’s outing reeked of novelty. In a blowout win, his Warriors team continually fouled the New York Knicks even while way ahead in order to get the ball back and dump it back down low into Chamberlain, working against a backup center he had a six- or seven-inch height advantage on. It was a cool thing to do, giving the NBA its first Leviathan numerical achievement to rank among the Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio-styled stats that baseball routinely turns out, but it was a gimmick after the second quarter.
Bryant’s Lakers did win this one by 18, but this was a close contest until the third and an up-for-grabs game until the fourth quarter. Kobe, still smarting from being pulled from an assured win against the Dallas Mavericks a month earlier with 62 points after just 32 minutes of action, decided to make this one count, and Phil Jackson allowed for Kobe to stay up a few minutes past his usual bedtime.
The result was history. Even if we thought it was the second best game on what was quite possibly the most exciting night in NBA League Pass history, with Ray Allen’s Seattle SuperSonics downing the Phoenix Suns in a 152-149, double-overtime thriller.
Even given Kobe’s uneasiness with (and sometimes downright unnecessary nastiness toward) his teammates from back then, it’s easy to see why nostalgia might be setting in. The 2005-06 Los Angeles Lakers had a terrible supporting cast around Bryant, and yet they managed to go 45-37 in a loaded Western conference. This season’s crew is on pace to finish with 34 wins despite the supporting cast Kobe was once so giddy about.
In talking with Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski early Tuesday morning, Bryant admitted that the Lakers weren’t “working,” a perfect choice of words for the man whose previous delve in to public self-analysis prior to the live-tweet session resulted in the wonderfully passive/aggressive and narcissistic (but wholly entertaining) documentary ‘Kobe Doin’ Work.’ And “documentary” is a bit of a stretch, because Bryant did work during that game while playing to the cameras that were following his every move, and the microphones that were everywhere.
The cameras and microphones are everywhere in 2013 as well, detailing a Laker team in shambles.
Bryant started the year playing the best offensive basketball of his career (yes, even better than 2005-06), but his defense cost the team chances at wins, and he’s in the middle of a terrible shooting stretch – shooting over an average of more than 26 times a game over his last three contests (all losses) despite managing only a 31.6 percent mark from the field during that run. Bryant missed eight of nine shots down the stretch in a winnable game against the Bulls on Monday, and his ball domination (or, let’s cop to it, “ball hogging”) is one of the biggest reasons Steve Nash and Dwight Howard are completely out of sync in Los Angeles’ offense.
Nash established a season high of 18 points in his 17th game of the season on Monday, ridiculously low numbers when you consider his shooting gifts, and in that loss Dwight Howard only shot the ball five times against a center in Joakim Noah that he has had his way with over the years. And in an eye-rolling move in a season full of them, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni needlessly pointed out that he’d moved Pau Gasol to the bench “permanently” in order to fully take advantage of his low posts gifts in the second unit. Leaving us to wonder:
1). Why say “permanently” to anything in this league, when any change can make you look wishy-washy at best and hypocritical at worst?
2). Why not just take advantage of those gifts in the starting lineup instead of asking him to shoot perimeter jumpers? Why not post Gasol a bunch while the often-power forward’ish Howard roams the weak side?
D’Antoni has failed to adapt to the strengths of his players, a cardinal sin as a coach of his team, but his players have also failed the most important thing in team sports – adapting to the strengths of their teammates.
In the midst of all this failure, Kobe can now take an afternoon off to revel in a time where he wasn’t expected to acknowledge his lacking teammates. Join in, won’t you?
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