Is there another legendary Kobe Bryant stretch of play left in the tank?
Regardless of whether or not Kobe Bryant puts together another noteworthy stretch of games—and he most likely will—there's no doubt that he's already constructed quite the impressive résumé.
Throughout his career, Kobe has played at a high level, one that's going to leave him as one of the 10 best players of all time when he finally calls it quits. However, he's occasionally upped his already stellar level of play, leaving the mere mortals even further behind in the dust.
When Kobe reaches that special level, the world takes notice. He's done it time after time during his decade-plus in the NBA.
These 10 stretches stand out in particular.
Date: Jan. 25, 2013 through Feb. 12, 2013
Los Angeles Lakers' Record: 8-3
Per-Game Stats: 18.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, 8.3 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.5 blocks
Shooting Percentages: 45.5 FG%, 4.3 3P%, 87.7 FT%
It's awfully difficult for a 34-year-old to suddenly change roles and still thrive. When you ask such a veteran to do so without even skipping a beat, well, that's pretty much impossible.
Fortunately for the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bryant doesn't believe in the word "impossible."
Mike D'Antoni asked Kobe to become the primary facilitator instead of treating scoring like it was all that mattered on the basketball court. This forced Steve Nash to play off the ball, functioning as a spot-up shooter rather than a ball-handler.
It worked, both for the team and Kobe's individual numbers. In a season as tough as 2012-13 has been for L.A., an 8-3 record is indeed something to write home about.
In Kobe's first three games functioning as this new-look facilitator on the court, he fell a combined four rebounds shy of three triple-doubles. He actually managed to average 16.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 13 assists per game over that three-game period.
Date: Feb. 5, 1999 through Feb. 22, 1999
Los Angeles Lakers' Record: 6-5
Per-Game Stats: 21.1 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.2 blocks
Shooting Percentages: 47.0 FG%, 25.9 3P%, 85.5 FT%
Over a decade ago, a young Kobe Bryant decided that he wasn't just content to light up the scoreboard.
This streak can't even hold a candle to some of the top place-holders in these rankings, but the well-roundedness of his output this early in his legendary career is undoubtedly impressive.
Beginning with an eight-point victory over the Houston Rockets on the first day of the 1998-99 season, Kobe attacked the glass with ferocity for about half a month. He recorded double-doubles in each of the first five games, and his average would be well above 10 rebounds per game if it weren't for a two-board game against the Indiana Pacers.
While the Mamba has had better stretches from a statistical perspective, the uniqueness of what he did at just 20 years old allows this 11-game run to earn a spot in the rankings.
Date: May 17, 2010 through May 29, 2010
Los Angeles Lakers' Record: 4-2
Per-Game Stats: 33.7 points, 7.2 rebounds, 8.3 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.2 blocks
Shooting Percentages: 52.1 FG%, 432 3P%, 88.1 FT%
Beating the Phoenix Suns in the 2010 postseason had to be particularly sweet for Kobe Bryant.
The desert-based franchise knocked him out of the running two years earlier, taking advantage of a relatively lackluster Los Angeles Lakers squad in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. In fact, it was a repeat of the 2006 postseason, when the same thing had happened.
Without an opportunity to beat the Suns in the 2008 or 2009 playoffs, this was the first true shot for redemption. And boy did he take advantage.
Kobe came out with a vengeance, scoring 40 points while constantly attacking the basket and finding his way to the charity stripe in Game 1. Over the next three contests, although the Lakers went 1-2, Kobe averaged 31.7 points, 7.0 rebounds and 11.3 assists per game while shooting 55.4 percent from the field.
He closed out the series decisively, scoring a combined 67 points over the last two games, and almost recorded a triple-double in Game 5, falling just one rebound shy of the necessary milestones.
Date: Jan. 21, 2008 through Feb. 1, 2008
Los Angeles Lakers' Record: 3-4
Per-Game Stats: 32.6 points, 9.1 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.6 blocks
Shooting Percentages: 53.4 FG%, 41.7 3P%, 78.9 FT%
You knew there was going to be something from the 2007-08 campaign in these rankings. After all, it's the only season in which Kobe Bryant managed to win MVP.
During that award-winning season, the Mamba didn't have any ridiculous scoring runs. He just played with consistent excellence from start to finish. It's hard to pick the standout moments because he simply stood out during the entire year.
However, Kobe did manage to record more consecutive double-doubles than he ever had, starting with a 17-point, 11-assist victory over the Denver Nuggets. It was the first of six double-doubles in a row.
All of the double-doubles involved Kobe scoring at least 10 points (duh). Two saw him push past 10 assists, and the other four required double-digit rebounds. They were all impressive.
I've also included a seventh game in this stretch, though. On Feb. 1, in a win against the Toronto Raptors, Kobe dropped 46 points on 19-of-28 shooting from the field. Since he "only" had seven rebounds and five assists, it didn't qualify as a double-double, but it was yet another standout game.
Date: Dec. 2, 2012 through Jan. 4, 2013
Los Angeles Lakers' Record: 7-9
Per-Game Stats: 34.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.6 blocks
Shooting Percentages: 47.6 FG%, 32.4 3P%, 81.9 FT%
Age is supposed to affect players in a negative way. 34-year-olds aren't supposed to go on scoring tears, unless they possess something that can't be taken away by the inevitable grasp of Father Time. Take Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's unstoppable sky hook, for example.
Well, Kobe has something like that, even if it's not as readily apparent as a sky hook: his desire and mental fortitude. Although his athleticism has gone downhill a bit, he isn't going to let his level of play decline.
So it shouldn't be all that surprising that Kobe dominated on offense for such a prolonged period during the 2012-13 season. The Mamba actually managed to score at least 30 points in 13 straight games, averaging 34.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game on 46.4 percent shooting.
His streak was snapped by a 27-point outing against the Portland Trail Blazers—Kobe played just 30 minutes—but then he had 36 and 38 in back-to-back games to close out the period listed at the top of this slide.
Again, he did this at 34.
Date: Feb. 4, 2000 through Mar. 13, 2000
Los Angeles Lakers' Record: 19-0
Per-Game Stats: 22.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 1.5 steals, 1.1 blocks
Shooting Percentages: 51.0 FG%, 37.0 3P%, 80.8 FT%
Something tells me that if you asked Kobe Bryant what the most impressive stretch of his career has been, he'd point to this one. After all, the Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard has always been about winning above all else.
This wasn't the best statistical stretch of his career—truth be told, it's not even close—but it coincided with the best win streak Kobe has been a part of. The 19 consecutive games that the Mamba helped win gave L.A. the sixth-longest streak in NBA history as well.
Kobe's well-rounded lines contributed massively to the streak, but this one isn't really about the individual numbers. That's why it can't rank any higher. The rankings here are about just Kobe, so team success is only one of many factors and not the be-all, end-all it may be in his mind.
Date: Mar. 16, 2007 through Apr. 18, 2007
Los Angeles Lakers' Record: 9-8
Per-Game Stats: 40.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.6 blocks
Shooting Percentages: 47.3 FG%, 35.3 3P%, 88.5 FT%
In terms of individual efforts, Kobe Bryant was absolutely phenomenal down the stretch for the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2006-07 season. All scorers out there take note, because this is how you finish in style.
During the first four contests of this 17-game stretch, the Mamba actually managed to average 56.3 points per game. 56.3. That is not a typo.
There's fire. There's super fire. There's mega fire. There's LeBron James fire. And then there's Wilt Chamberlain-on-a-scoring-tear fire.
Kobe actually managed to reach that ultra-rare final level at the beginning of this stretch. Even though he cooled off a bit—how could he avoid that?—he still broke past the 50-point barrier three more times before the end of the regular season.
Date: Mar. 19, 2006 through Apr. 19, 2006
Los Angeles Lakers' Record: 11-4
Per-Game Stats: 38.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.3 steals, 0.2 blocks
Shooting Percentages: 48.5 FG%, 36.7 3P%, 84.9 FT%
The Los Angeles Lakers needed to win consistently at the end of the 2005-06 campaign to even get into the playoffs. An 11-4 record down the stretch allowed them to finish with the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference, one game ahead of the Sacramento Kings and four games clear of the Utah Jazz.
Of course, the architect behind that impressive run was Kobe Bryant.
The Mamba hit 50 points in two different games, dropping exactly half a hundred against the Portland Trail Blazers and, three games earlier, 51 in a loss to the Phoenix Suns.
He was also particularly impressive on the less glamorous end of the court. Kobe loved jumping into passing lanes back then, and he racked up the steals as a result. During the last five games of the season, he actually managed to average 3.2 swipes per contest.
His defensive efforts in those games were still overshadowed by his offense, though, as he averaged 39.6 points and 3.8 assists on 49.6 percent shooting from the field.
Date: Apr. 22, 2001 through Jun. 15, 2001
Los Angeles Lakers' Record: 15-1
Per-Game Stats: 29.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.8 blocks
Shooting Percentages: 46.9 FG%, 32.4 3P%, 82.1 FT%
Behind Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, who also dominated throughout the 2001 postseason, the Los Angeles Lakers couldn't be stopped during the playoffs. Only the Philadelphia 76ers managed to beat this juggernaut purple-and-gold clad unit, thereby preventing them from sweeping through each and every round.
Not so coincidentally, Kobe only managed to put up 15 points on 7-of-22 shooting in that ill-fated NBA Finals opener.
However, the Mamba couldn't be charmed during the rest of the postseason.
After closing out the Sacramento Kings with 48 points and 16 rebounds, Kobe was at his best during the Western Conference finals against the San Antonio Spurs. During that four-game mini-stretch, Bryant averaged 33.3 points, seven rebounds and seven assists per game on 51.4 percent shooting from the field.
The truly impressive part of this stretch, though, was when it occurred. This wasn't a regular-season streak. It came during the toughest part of the campaign, when it mattered most.
Date: Jan. 29, 2003 through Feb. 28, 2003
Los Angeles Lakers' Record: 13-3
Per-Game Stats: 40.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2.4 steals, 0.9 blocks
Shooting Percentages: 47.5 FG%, 42.9 3P%, 85.1 FT%
Trying to stop Kobe Bryant from scoring during this month-long run in the middle of the 2002-03 season was just about as tough as it gets in the NBA.
The Mamba was en fuego pretty much throughout the month of February. He began the stretch by dropping 40 against the Phoenix Suns, then broke past that 40-point barrier 10 more times in 15 efforts. Most impressively, he hit 40 or more in nine consecutive games, including two 50-point outings.
No one should be able to score like that, but Kobe just made it look easy. Between his youthful springy athleticism and the touch that was beyond his years, No. 8 looked like a certain No. 23.
It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that the Lakers only dropped three games during this stretch, as Bryant was playing basketball like it was meant to be played: with a beautiful mixture of volume and efficiency.