Down by one with 2:16 left in the fourth quarter Bryant had Smith in an isolation situation at the top of the arc and drove hard to his right. Instead of stopping short, leaning in and trying to draw contact like most 34-year-old guards would, Bryant came to a two-foot plant and elevated.
His thunderous one-handed spike put the Lakers up by a point and may very well have caused a rift in the space-time continuum.
ESPN's Arash Markazi theorized that Bryant might have traveled into the past to bring back such a vintage slam:
Kobe Bryant with a dunk straight out of 1998 there.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) March 4, 2013
Despite its appearance, the dunk really did come from a present-day Bryant. Considering the ripple effect of the play, there's a good argument to be made that the Lakers' season experienced a tipping point as the ball rocketed downward through the net.
L.A. went on to win the game (thanks to four more points by No. 24, of course), moved to .500 for the first time since December and caught the attention of players around the league. A certain defensive ace on one of the Western Conference's hottest teams certainly took notice:
That might be dunk of the year!!!!— Andre Iguodala (@andre) March 4, 2013
Finally, as the earth-shaking smash took place in California, it was only right that the aftershocks lingered long after the play was over. Per Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times:
Staples Center still buzzing from Kobe's dunk. It was two minutes ago. #Lakers— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) March 4, 2013
Bryant's play conjured up echoes of the past, but it has its most importance in what it means for the Lakers' future. With the Oklahoma City Thunder looming on L.A.'s upcoming schedule, the Lakers needed more than a statement win to create some momentum for a difficult stretch run.
Thanks to a dunk that truly turned back time, they got it.