There are no words that can adequately sum up just how great Kobe is.
Incredible. Amazing. Astonishing. Prodigious. Resilient. They (and more) all apply, but the Black Mamba cannot be defined in one word. It would take a new, manufactured confab that was at least 50 syllables in length to do him justice. And that might not even be enough.
At 34, Kobe continues to school the rest of the NBA in the art of dominance. The Los Angeles Lakers haven't clinched a playoff berth, and they may miss out on the postseason entirely, but even their prosaic campaign isn't enough to offset just how historic Bryant's season has been.
Averaging 27.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and six assists on 46.3 percent shooting, Kobe is on pace to become the first player in NBA history, age 34 or older, to post at least 27 points, five rebounds and six assists per game. And he'll be just the fourth player ever to eclipse such marks after his 30th birthday, joining the company of Larry Bird, Ricky Barry and John Havlicek, all of whom are Hall of Famers.
What the fourth-leading scorer of all time has been able to accomplish as he continues to age is both awe-inspiring and necessary. We've hardly seen anything like what Kobe is doing, but the Lakers need him to do it if they wish to salvage their season.
Failure to make the postseason will undoubtedly put a damper on Bryant's parade, but win or lose, playoffs or not, nothing will change how epic a year Kobe has had.
*All stats in this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference unless otherwise noted.
When: March 30, 2013 @ Sacramento Kings
Stat Line: 19 points, nine rebounds, 14 assists and two steals on 27.8 percent shooting
What better way to emphasize the fact that we're not ranking Kobe Bryant's performances chronologically than by beginning with the beautiful, yet hideous game he had against the Kings.
I'm well aware that Kobe shot just 5-of-18 from the field, but this bout marked the third time in the 2012-13 season that he had handed out at least 14 assists.
Do you know how many other times he's done that?
Bryant has dished out 14 dimes in a single game just eight times in his career, and never three in the same season—except for this one.
If you're more about the cosmetic makeup of the game and less apt to embrace the contextual meaning, though, consider this: This display left Kobe as the only NBA player over 34 (since 1985) to have at least 19 points, nine rebounds and 14 assists more than once in the same season.
Efficiency is important, but that type of distinction is even more so.
When: January 25, 2013 vs. Utah Jazz
Stat Line: 14 points, 14 assists, nine rebounds, three steals and one block on 70 percent shooting
Why the video of this particular steal and hoop on a night when Kobe Bryant had 14 assists? Because this depicts one of just 10 shots Bryant took that night.
Kobe is averaging over 20 shots per game this season, and nearly 20 for his career (19.6), so seeing him attempt just 10 in nearly 35 minutes of action bordered on absurd.
Not only did this serve as the first of three games this season where he would dish out at least 14 assists, but at the time, it was just the sixth time he had done so in his career. It was also just the 10th time in his career he had taken 10 or less shots while playing at least 34 minutes, and the first time he did so since 2008.
These passing exploits came one game after the Lakers fell apart against the Memphis Grizzlies, dropping to 17-25. This was the beginning of a 37-game span that would see Los Angeles go 25-12. And it also stands as the team's only victory over the Jazz this season.
In the grand scheme of things, this particular win could prove huge if the Lakers clinch eighth place. Just as huge as Kobe's performance itself.
When: February 24, 2013 @ Dallas Mavericks
Stat Line: 38 points, 12 rebounds, seven assist and one block on 61.9 percent shooting
Well, they can't all be triple-doubles.
With the Lakers within two wins of reaching .500 and riding a two-game win streak, Kobe Bryant went off. Like really went off.
By the contest's end, this had become just the third time in Kobe's career he had scored at least 35 points, grabbed 10 boards and dropped seven dimes on 60 percent or better shooting. The last time he put up such marks simultaneously was in 2008.
Dating back to 1985, Bryant is the only player to post this stat line after his 34th birthday. He's also the first player over 30 to hit the milestone since Hakeem Olajuwon did it in 1996.
I think a jaw-drop and a few gasps are in order here.
When: April 2, 2013 vs. Dallas Mavericks
Stat Line: 22 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists and three steals on 44.4 percent shooting
Kobe Bryant would have made Kareem Abdul-Jabbar proud in this one. Not just because he netted his second triple-double of the season, but also because he incorporated a crafty sky hook into his performance.
Though the Mamba's second triple-double wasn't as efficient a display as his first (spoiler), it remains one of his most well-rounded games of the season.
This game marked just the fifth time in Kobe's career that he had at least two triple-doubles in the same season.
More importantly, the Lakers improved to 39-36 and gained a full-game's worth of breathing room over the Mavericks in the playoff race.
Count on Kobe, indeed.
When: November 18, 2012 vs. Houston Rockets
Stat Line: 23 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists, four steals and two blocks on 50 percent shooting
With the Lakers 4-5 and desperately looking to hit .500, Kobe Bryant delivered.
The Mamba torched James Harden and the Houston Rockets for his 18th career triple-double, and his first since 2010. This also marked the first of many games this season where he would dish out 10 or more assists.
Oh what a sight it was.
Bryant shot just 1-of-3 from downtown, but 9-of-18 overall. He became just the second player over 34 (Larry Bird) since 1985 to tally at least 20 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists and four steals in the same game.
Despite grabbing the victory, Los Angeles' struggles were only just beginning at this point. But Kobe was only starting to catch fire.
When: January 27, 2013 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Stat Line: 21 points, nine rebounds, 14 assists, one steal and one bock on 66.7 percent shooting
For the second-straight game, Kobe Bryant dished out 14 assists. Is that significant? Only hell yes.
This was also the second-straight game in which Kobe had shot 65 percent or better from the field, something he's also only done once before in his career (2008).
The fact that Bryant is able to have these kinds of nights, to put together these kinds of stretches nearly two decades into his NBA tenure, is unbelievable. Again, it defies all we know about the correlation between age and performance.
That it came against the Thunder, a Western Conference powerhouse and an accurate representation of the faction the Lakers were supposed to be, makes it even sweeter.
When: February 22 vs. Portland Trail Blazers
Stat Line: 40 points, seven assists, four rebounds and two steals on 65.2 shooting
Kobe Bryant seems to save his best for the Blazers (spoiler).
It was just the second game the Lakers were playing since renowned owner Jerry Buss had passed away, and the first of which they were found sporting "JB" patches. Bryant ensured that we would remember the occasion.
This was Kobe's fifth 40-point game of the season and just the 12th of his career where he eclipsed 40 points while playing fewer than 36 minutes. Presently, it stands as the only time this year he has been able to hit 40 points while paying fewer than 40 minutes.
Los Angeles improved to 27-29 on the season following this win and was building momentum, largely thanks to Kobe.
He continued to defy the laws of age, putting forth a memorable effort that honored Dr. Buss just as much as sewing his initials onto the team's jerseys did.
When: March 8, 2013 vs. Toronto Raptors
Stat Line: 41 points, six rebounds, 12 assists and two steals on 50 percent shooting.
Kobe Bryant wound up committing nine turnovers in this one, but it was also the second-straight game he has posted at least 40 points and 10 assists.
The game itself was ugly, and again, those nine turnovers hardly embody epic, but Bryant carried the Lakers through to a nail biter of a victory. They improved to 32-31 on the season, putting their heads above .500 for the first time since they were 6-5.
Los Angeles hasn't fallen below .500 since, and Kobe has never looked back.
When: March 6, 2013 @ New Orleans Hornets
Stat Line: 42 points, seven rebounds 12 assists and one block on 66.7 percent shooting
This one had the makings of a disaster. The Lakers found themselves down big in the fourth quarter, but they rallied around Kobe Bryant and came away with a victory.
It was just the fourth time in Kobe's career that a 40-point outing coincided with him dropping at least 10 dimes as well. And it was just the eighth time he scored at least 40 points on 60 percent shooting.
Riding Bryant, the Lakers went on a 20-0 run to close out the fourth quarter, improving to 31-31 and thus reaching .500 for just the second time since they were 15-15.
This was one of those victories that could just as easily been a loss. But it was also one of those games that Bryant was just as hell-bent on not losing.
When: April 10, 2013 @ Portland Trail Blazers
Stat Line: 47 points, eight rebounds, five assists, three steals and four blocks on 51.9 percent shooting.
Tell me, when's the last time you've seen Kobe Bryant this dominant on both ends of the floor? When's the last time you've seen anybody this in tune on either side of the ball?
Kobe was just monstrous in this one. The Lakers found themselves in need of a victory yet again, and he delivered with the most Mamba-esque of achievements.
Bryant's 47 points tied him with Carmelo Anthony for the most 40-point games in the NBA this season (eight). It was the 120th 40-point performance of his career, the most of any player since 1985 other than Michael Jordan himself (166). He is now also the first player over 34 to drop 40 or more points at least eight times in the same season since Jordan did so during the 1997-98 campaign.
Not epic enough for you?
The Mamba is now one of just two players in NBA history (since 1985), to post at least 45 points, eight rebounds, five assists, three steals and four blocks in the same game. The other (incidentally) is fellow shooting guard Dwyane Wade. That he's the only player over 30 to have done so is even more incredulous.
Afterward, the gravity of his performance isn't even what mattered most.
"We’ve got no breathing room at all,” Bryant said (via Cindy Boren of The Washington Post). “I’m still on edge. We’ve got to win three more games and we’re in.”
This game put the Lakers one game ahead of the Jazz for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot, essentially giving them control of their own destiny. It left Kobe on "edge" as well.
If his efforts in this one are any indication of what it's like to see him on edge, then it comes as crippling news for the Jazz.
And even worse news for the Lakers' first-round opponent.