Because of shots like this one.
Whether you think Bryant is clutch, believe in the concept of clutch or despise the clutch conversation (ding, ding, ding!), there's no denying how awesome last night's game-sealing three-pointer was.
Bryant rose, released and watched as his shot bounced up to hit glass, hit the rim again and finally—after 3.3 seconds of teasing the Staples Center crowd—decided to drop.
Of course it did.
Those are the kinds of shots that we expect players like Bryant to hit. And when it doesn't happen, we shrug the misses off with a "nobody's perfect" because we love the moment where a superstar gets to pull through and be the hero, even if we're rooting against him.
It's what makes sports so great—expecting miracles even though we know the numbers work against us. When they do, it's incredibly exciting and validates all of the hours of sleep (especially those of us out on the East Coast) we have given up to watch.
I think I hate the clutch argument because it really doesn't matter what we think. We're not on the court. We're not making the pass to the player we think is our best shot at winning the game. We're not drawing up the plays, either.
Regardless of what the numbers tell us, in spite of all of the evidence we have to tell us otherwise, Bryant with the ball at the end of the game is a good thing. It's a good thing because it strikes something within us.
Whether we want him to make the shot, believe he'll add another notch to his legacy or can fire off seven reasons why the ball should be somewhere else, we care when Bryant has the ball because we're invested. We're invested in his story as much as we are invested in what we believe in and why.
Last night, Bryant played hero and won. He did the same thing, in even more dramatic fashion, on Saturday afternoon. Basketball is better when great players make great shots, but it's the not knowing that keeps us engaged and makes us care. Superstar players make superstar plays sometimes. Other times they don't.
For now, let's enjoy Bryant's bucket while being certain that there will be more to come.
That is something we can bank on.