Kobe Bryant sets career high with 17 assists in Lakers loss

Los Angeles Lakers icon Kobe Bryant has always had a reputation as an inveterate shooter, but he's also long been capable of serving as one of the best facilitators in the league on any given night. In his best years, Kobe could unleash a 40-point, 10-assist night with little warning — this one is probably the best known, although this is a personal favorite. While Kobe often seems to approach each game as a binary between passing and scoring, the fact is that he is perfectly capable of balancing those responsibilities when he wants to be. He's talented enough to do everything.

[Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball]

The 36-year-old Kobe isn't the player he once was, but on Thursday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers he reminded everyone of just how well-rounded his game can be. Despite playing just 32 minutes as part of a planned limit, Bryant dished out 17 assists to set a new career high, breaking his previous best of 15 dimes set way back in February 2002 vs. Michael Jordan's Washington Wizards. Here's a look at most of Thursday's assists:

Kobe also had 19 points (7-of-14 FG) in the Lakers' 109-102 loss, but he was good enough to suggest that his team could have won the game if he had been allowed to see more of the court. Unfortunately, that's just the way things are for an aging superstar. As recently as a two years ago, Kobe wouldn't have followed up this record with an announcement that he was missing the Lakers' next game on Friday at the Jazz:

Regardless, this performance was as impressive as any we've seen from Kobe this season. It's best to appreciate it and any more that may lie in the future while we still can.

- - - - - - -

Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at efreeman_ysports@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!