Kobe Bryant: Black Mamba Sends a League-Wide Message with Third 40-Point Effort

Tom KinslowFeatured ColumnistJanuary 14, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 06:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives against David Lee #10 of the Golden State Warriors  at Staples Center on January 6, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  The Lakers won 97-90. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

No one holds a grudge like Kobe Bryant.

The unquestioned face of the Los Angeles Lakers and a sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famer listens to what everyone says about him, his team, and more importantly, his competition. He heard that his team was too old to compete, he heard that his aging knees didn't have another title run in him, and above all, he heard that the Clippers were coming for his crown.

After this past week, make no mistake about it — Los Angeles will always be the Black Mamba's town. 

In his last three games, Bryant has eclipsed the 40-point mark, putting the Lakers on his back once more with his latest effort, a 42-point barrage that led Los Angeles to a 97-92 home victory against Cleveland. After starting the season on the back burner of the league, Bryant has made sure that his game and the play of the Lakers is at the forefront of everyone's mind.

Coming into the year, 'Lob City' was all of the rage. Now, Bryant looks down at Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and the rest of the Clippers from the top of the league. The Black Mamba has reminded us of how truly special he is. 

Maybe we as fans have become so used to his excellence, or maybe we're just prisoners of the moment. Whatever the case, Bryant has been taken for granted, as evidenced by ESPN ranking him the seventh-best player in the league. With all of the attention on him for his incredible scoring efforts, Bryant let everyone know that he was paying attention, and he didn't forget those in the media who had crossed him.

Per the Associated Press:

"Not bad for the seventh-best player in the league," Bryant said, referring to an online ranking of the NBA's top 500 players.

Bryant doesn't forget a slight against his ability as a basketball player, and the fact that he's doing this on a bad wrist is a fact that can't be emphasized enough.

Under the circumstances, most players would have crumbled under the strain and grind that goes into getting his wrist ready for every game. Couple that with the NBA's grueling 66-game schedule, which has already worn down some of the league's best players, and Bryant's latest run of excellence is something to be marveled.

As much as we should enjoy this hot streak, it should be a learning experience for each and every fan of the NBA.

Do not doubt Kobe Bryant, and most importantly, do not do it in public. If you do, he will take notice, and when he inevitably proves you wrong, he will rub your face in it.