Kobe Bryant knows best.
And Bryant let them know it.
Following the Utah Jazz's loss to the Memphis Grizzlies (which clinched a playoff berth for the Lakers), Kobe tweeted a quick proverbial jab at Los Angeles' critics, followed by an onslaught of motivational hashtags:
Could we blame him?
It wasn't just pundits or malicious haters who counted the Lakers out; the numbers also suggested that Tinseltown would miss the playoffs for just the second time since Bryant joined the team.
Not only did the Lakers manage to escape the regular season with a playoff berth, they did so as the Western Conference's seventh seed—which surprised everyone.
Playoff promise fulfilled #ontothenext— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) April 18, 2013
Bryant has a point, too. He's not just taunting the detractors for the hell of it (well, maybe a little). Kobe envisioned this. He believed in his team. He was right.
The Lakers are in the playoffs and have even avoided a first-round matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Bryant wasn't in uniform (though couldn't you just picture him lounging around the house in No. 24?) to ultimately make good on his promise, but he remains a huge part of why Los Angeles was able to turn it around.
How far will the Lakers go in the playoffs?
After beginning the season 17-25 and appearing to be on the brink of implosion, the Lakers finished out the year 28-12. Few believed such a shift in narratives was possible. Even fewer would have exuded such faith knowing the Lakers would lose their leader to a ruptured Achilles.
But the Mamba wasn't one of them.
Through wins, losses, in-house spats and self-doubt, Bryant never lost faith. Even when all evidence pointed to the contrary, his allegiances never once wavered.
Now, the Lakers are in the playoffs and those who were wrong are of no significance.
All that matters is that Bryant was right.