April 28, 2011: Kobe Bryant checks out the scene in New Orleans. He'll be captaining the U.S.S. Three-Peat.
Would you look Kobe Bryant in the eyes after he thunder dunked on you? I wouldn’t. Not even if I was Emeka Okafor’s size.
It’s not the size of the vertical that counts anymore with Kobe; it’s the size of the game. And it was definitely the biggest game for the Lakers so far in this three-peat possible season.
The bigger the game—the bigger the killing for the “Black Mamba.” And the killer snake was recently spotted on the floor in the Staples Center off I-10 in L.A.
It was unable to be captured and escaped unharmed. A slithering Kobe “Black Mamba” Bryant slashed the lane and leaped around and over the New Orleans Hornets. It was such a spectacular move that Kobe’s own teammates stood up and hollered.
It sent a message to his teammates, to the fans and to the rest of the NBA. The meaning behind the memo is the Lakers are going to play with enthusiasm for the rest of this year’s playoffs. While some say they’re vulnerable, the Lakers playing like they care are more likely to draw vultures over their rotting prey, than for L.A. to be preyed upon.
Mamba’s aerial assaults have become commonplace over the years. The last two or three seasons, though, have been different. Fans and teammates know Kobe paces himself and brings out the big guns for the biggest games.
In the pivotal fifth game of their playoff series, the Hornets peeped his game and proceeded to fold to an enthused opponent. The Lakers ended up blowing them out of the boat by 16 in L.A.
Looking in Kobe’s blood-shot eyes, it appeared he probably didn’t get much sleep the night before the game. He was undergoing non-stop treatment on his ankle and may have slept with the electronic-stimulation wires strapped on.
And it was a big game in a close series—let’s be honest. It was enough to cause even Kobe to perhaps have a sleepless night. He’s human. Okay, well, half mamba, half human.
The Hornets had shocked humanity by beating Los Angeles in game one and hadn’t gone away. They were tied, 2-2, with the mighty Lakers. Then the left-handed dunk came.
It was another spectacular and acrobatic assault on the rim by the Black Mamba. Oh, yeah, the Lakers and their fans were definitely enthused.
In that Tuesday night Game 5 against New Orleans, Bryant strapped up and played 29 minutes on a supposedly sprained left ankle. The world would be a much better place if we all had his healing powers.
Pau Gasol apparently saw the light and came to life. He was pump-fisting after he scored and drew a foul on a baby hook from the low block later in Game 5.
In my recent memory, it was the first time I can recall him showing signs of being fired up. He’s been stoic all season and inconsistent in the last few games—like most of the fishy Lakers.
But far from cruising on the lake, or going fishing on the river, the Lakers advanced past the Hornets on Thursday night in a Game 6 performance for the ages. They won by 18 points—going away—in the series clincher.
The 98-80 thrashing showed the thrill had returned for the Lakers—the ship be sailing. It could be a fantastic voyage from here on out.
The Lakers now appear ready to roll through the waves of the Western Conference on their way to a three-peat. And much credit can be given to the Game 5 performance by one Kobe Bean "Black Mamba" Bryant.
Jelly Bean’s son was flying over the competition and grooming his offense and looking as spry as anytime during the last two championship seasons. Bryant is going all-out for head coach Phil Jackson—11 time NBA champion.
As a captain of the team, Kobe wants to ensure the retiring P.J. goes out a winner. If you ask Kobe, we can all end the speculation of whether or not Jackson will return. It’s a done deal. He won’t be back next season.
Bryant and teammate Derek Fisher know Phil better than perhaps any of his players ever have. They both sense Jackson’s desire to hang it up after this season. So Kobe’s high-rising act came in the natural order of things.
He did it to fire his team up, to show his ankle was all right and to steer the ship onto the right course. Now it’s full speed ahead and the Lakers are looking strong.
They still have naysayers—especially in one Charles “Going Fishing” Barkley, who predicted Dallas would upset the Lakers in the upcoming series. On TNT on Thursday night, Barkley was at first stumped when asked to discuss the Lakers-Dallas series.
With Kenny and Ernie hard-pressing him, he finally admitted he liked Dallas. He also predicted Atlanta over Orlando and Memphis over San Antonio in this year’s playoffs. He’s been right about the Hawks and appears to be on point about the Spurs.
Chuck sounded unsure of himself with the Dallas pick, though, as Kenny pointed out.
Barkley wasn’t too confident picking against the Lakers because the Lakers are now on point. And a Lakers team playing anywhere near its best basketball virtuosity is virtually unbeatable.
Especially when a beaten down with injuries Andrew Bynum also appears spry and high-flying. His jump shot in the lane is coming along nicely as well. When he starts to pull the sky hook out his repertoire, then we’ll really know he’s steam-rolling.
He started playing his best basketball as soon as the playoffs started—averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds against the Hornets. He helped steer the vessel as it left the Hornets in their wake in the last two games and especially down the stretch of the clinching game six in New Orleans.
The message is clear. If Kobe can sail his own boat through the rough waters infested with injuries, then so can big Andrew Bynum. Together, they can transport the Lakers.
If you ask Chris Paul, he’ll probably also tell you that since Kobe’s left-handed dunk, the Lakers’ yacht has been sailing on course. Now it’s up to P.J. and the coaching staff, of course, to get them to the promised island of a third NBA championship in a row.
It could be smooth sailing.