Last week I had the chance to attend an early practice at the Staples Center. Given the hoopla surrounding this year’s Lakers team, it was refreshing to see the team focusing on the fundamentals of basketball—half-court shots.
I asked Coach Phil if he had to bet a hip replacement on who would win this half-court-heave-fest, who would he take? Radmanovic? Vujacic? The master Buddhist simply replied, "The Kobe Bryant." Then I watched as he knocked down 11 straight half-court shots.
Shocked? Probably not, huh?
The purpose of the aforementioned story is exactly that—it’s a story. A story so far-fetched it couldn’t have happened, and didn’t happen. But the basis behind telling it is to point out how believable the unbelievable can seem when you’re speaking about the likes of Kobe Bryant.
I mean, the odds of making one 47-footer are 1-20. Now take those odds and multiply them to the 11th power and you get, well, a lot!
So why exactly do we believe such a story so easily? I know some of you weren’t that impressed at such a stat upon initial reading. Maybe if I’d had said he hit it 47 consecutive times you may have raised a brow. But that’s my whole point—the guy is too good to be true so we just alter our conceivability level!
Score 80 points? No biggie. Win an MVP with an injured pinkie on his shooting hand? Not a problem.
But win a second straight MVP award with a pinkie that required surgery last year and still hasn’t been corrected, a seven-footer that can’t buy an alcoholic drink, a superstar being asked to come off the bench, off-court drama that includes Shaq Poetry 101, and a coach that needs to put his own health ahead of his career—I’ll bet the farm on it! (Or at least that insomniac rooster.)
For Kobe, it’s all about focus, and the sideline photographers focus on Kobe no matter where he is. Take for instance a typical Laker timeout. Who does Phil allow to speak first?
Phil may draw them up; he may make the substitutions, manage the clock, and manage the refs. But he knows Kobe is the one who will make Gasol and Bynum be able to perform together, Vujacic have trust in his shot, Odom come off the bench with pride, and Fisher stay tough despite his age and off-court easygoing demeanor.
Nobody in the league would argue Kobe’s playing ability alone could win him the MVP. But it’s his ability to wear so many hats in a league defined by one-dimensional players that gives him his second consecutive MVP award.