The NBA Finals are the biggest stage in the world for a basketball player.
Those who can produce on this stage cultivate a different kind of status, a legend which endures beyond anything done in the regular season or the lesser playoff rounds.
Kobe's numbers last night—40 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists—put him in the company of some of the greatest players the game has ever seen. The Big Diesel, The Logo, and the GOAT himself are the only other players to ever produce such numbers on the greatest of basketball stages.
Let's take a look at Kobe's new club...
The original Superman posted a line of 40 points, 12 rebounds, and eight assists against the New Jersey Nets in the 2001-2002 Finals.
Of course, the Lakers went on to win the title—the second in their eventual three-peat at the beginning of the decade.
In the 1968-1969 NBA Finals, Jerry West put on one of the great performances in NBA history. Facing the last incarnation of the Bill Russell Celtics, West had an amazing line of 42 points, 13 rebounds, and 12 assists in a Game Seven the Laker's ultimately lost by two points, 108 to 106.
After the game, West was awarded the only Finals MVP award ever given to a player on the losing team. He also famously became the inspiration for the NBA logo itself.
On the way to completing the Bulls' first three-peat, Jordan had to go through the reigning MVP Charles Barkley and his Phoenix Suns.
As if to prove he was the real MVP, MJ averaged a finals record 41 points per game—including a Game Two in which he put up 42 points, 12 rebounds, and nine assists.
The Bulls went on to win their third title in a row, the first of two three-peats under the leadership of Jordan, who finished his career considered to be the greatest basketball player of all time.
This brings us to 2009, and the current Finals match up between the Lakers and the Magic.
Eager to get the series off to the best possible start Bryant put up the aforementioned line of 40 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists to bring himself into the company of the aforementioned stellar finals performers.
It was only Game One, so the outcome of the series is still undecided. But given Phil Jacksons 43-0 record in playoff series where he wins the first game, and Bryant's new-found level of focus and intensity, the rabbit could be out of the hat for the Magic.
I was one of the many who predicted the Magic to win this series—but it looks like that prediction could be wrong if Kobe has anything to say about it.