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If Kobe Bryant ever had the slightest chance of making the slightest claim to the G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time) title, it died in Dallas.
Can you imagine Michael Jordan getting swept at this point of his career by anyone? It's unfathomable.
Hell, even if Jordan were to take a series loss at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks, a team whose guard unit is so ill equipped to defend him, would he have scored a mere 17 points in Games 3 and 4?
Okay, maybe that’s unfair. He is Jordan after all.
But try to wrap your mind around Kobe going out so meekly even two years ago.
That’s equally unfathomable.
If it took Kobe 50 shots, he would have finished with a point total no lower than the 20s and probably the 30s.
Don’t get me wrong, nothing bothers me more than watching Kobe settle for those god-awful fading, contested, off-balance jumpers of his, but mostly because his timing is off when he chooses to do it.
It seems that Kobe takes those ill-advised shot attempts more when the game is within control and his teammates are contributing than when his team isn’t producing.
Game 4 got away from the Lakers quickly, but the urgency that served Bryant so well during the last two championship runs was nowhere to be seen.
Eighteen shot attempts in an elimination game? That wasn't even enough to match his season average.
Aside from Bryant's 36-point outing in Game 1, he did nothing to establish himself as the most dominant player in that series and looked more like a second-banana trying to do a top dog’s job than a two-time reigning Finals MVP looking to add a third.
Perhaps the worst of it all was his off-court demeanor.
Bryant, who repeatedly challenged Shaq for showing up out of shape at the start of regular season games, who blasted Andrew Bynum practically before he had a chance to set foot in Los Angeles, who “wanted to kill” Sasha Vujacic for the flagrant-two foul he was called for in the 2009 Western Conference Finals, all of a sudden had nothing to say about the disappearance of Pau Gasol?
All of a sudden Bryant, who’s publicly clamored for roster changes for much, much smaller offenses than this, has such confidence in a team that couldn’t pull out a single win against the Dallas Mavericks that he believes that the team as is can absolutely “come back and do it again”?
LeBron James was blasted for his "unsportsmanlike" exit of the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals, walking out of Amway Arena without shaking hands or talking to reporters, but call me crazy, I would rather have his exit than Bryant's laissez faire demeanor.
Even in Game 6 of the 2008 Finals, Bryant's demeanor oozed with a quiet rage that was evident on his face, his tone, his words and his aura.
Now, Bryant edges ever closer to retirement, Jackson is gone, Gasol has called into question whether he can be a number two option on a title team ever again, and if Kobe were your only barometer you might have thought that this series was a preseason exhibition.
Did the Lakers really run into a team so potent, so deadly that their defeat was the result of a superior opponent, or did in-fighting, lack of intensity, a failure to show up and the steady decline of a much softer Kobe Bryant do them in?