Dwight (Superman) Howard yanked a rebound out of the air and appeared all but headed to igniting yet another Magic fast break, when out of nowhere came Kobe (Black Mamba) Bryant, bullying Superman and snatching the ball out of his hands.
Bryant followed with a series of sharp elbows to the body of Howard, and the expression on the face of Howard in the moments that followed was a look of humiliation, anger, and absolute betrayal.
“Kobe,” Howard said. "We played on the Redeem Team together last summer, and even though you never did give me your phone number, I was under the impression that we had formed a bond. How could you do this to me on national television? I’ll never be able to explain this to my boys back home.”
Kobe responded with a string of profanities, which was clearly visible to the viewing public and ended up being a topic of discussion during his post-game press conference.
Cameras zoomed in on Howard’s face just as Kobe unleashed this verbal tirade. Suddenly Dwight’s smile vanished, replaced by a look of anger and resentment. “Who the heck is this guy?” Dwight thought to himself. “This certainly isn’t the Kobe that I shared birthday cake with in China last summer!"
The rest of the game was an afterthought. Kobe had surgically removed the heart of what had previously been the toughest member of the Magic team.
During the ensuing timeout, as Kobe marched to the bench, I was reminded of Michael Jordan snatching the series against the New York Knicks, years ago, when he dared to go toe-to-toe with Xavier McDaniel.
In that moment, Kobe Bryant showed us exactly what it is that separates him from LeBron James. The man is a cold-blooded killer, with, as Phil Jackson put it, “intestinal fortitude.”
To add insult to injury, moments later Howard caught a pass under the basket and gathered himself to go up for another one of his highlight-reel dunks when Redeem Team member No. 10 slammed him to the floor mercilessly, having no regard for human life. Again, Dwight looked absolutely stunned, pleading with officials to stop this man, to no avail.
Memo to Dwight Howard: Kobe Bryant is not your friend. The man is on a mission to shut the mouth of your newest nemesis;Shaquille O’Neal. If you were trapped inside a burning building and Kobe was forced to choose between saving your life and winning his fourth ring...well, you get the point!
Disclaimer: The author had no way of verifying what was actually said during the verbal exchange that took place between Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant.