While listening to the talking heads on ESPN, TNT, and practically every other sports new outlet across the country announcing that LeBron James had officially arrived as a clutch player, much like MJ and Kobe before him; in my mind, I was thinking that mentally, Cleveland was down 2-0 to the Magic…in spite of their miraculous win.
Contrary to popular belief, I knew even in watching the celebration of that winning moment, that LeBron James was still a choker, who could not handle pressure, and that if Cleveland’s hopes of winning the series against the Magic stood on LeBron’s ability to consistently make big plays in clutch moments, that the Magic would soon be on a plane to L.A. for the Finals.
Likewise, Kobe Bryant does not miss free throws in clutch moments. Kobe Bryant does not give away games that his team should win. In my mind, the Lakers are up 3-0 in this series. In the minds of the Orlando Magic players, they have to know that they did not win game three, but rather, it was a gift, courtesy of the best closer in the NBA.
I have established a routine during these playoffs of automatically adding points to the Lakers totals whenever Kobe has gone to the line to shoot free throws.
Naturally, in game three, each time that Kobe was sent to the line, I blurted out what the new score would be to my wife. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that Kobe would come through, just as he had done for the 100 or so games leading up to these moments.
I’ll never forget the timeless quote, spoken by Michael Jordan in a commercial years ago. In the quote, MJ says, “I have missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games.
"On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot... and missed. And I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
Kobe played horrible for the entire second half in game three. He forced shots, turned the ball over, missed free throws, and forced me to scan over my game programs more than once, to verify that I was in fact watching Kobe Bryant, and not the artist formerly known as “The King,” up in Cleveland.
The Lakers are a much better team than the Magic, and even after Kobe’s worst second half performance in weeks, the team from Hollywood, still had opportunities to take the win.
Kobe will not have another performance this horrible in this year’s finals, and we can and should expect the Lakers to take the next two games, before celebrating with a parade down South Figueroa Street.