LeBron James knows he has something to shoot for, if he didn’t already.
Sure, everybody has been saying Kobe Bryant’s the best player in basketball for a few years now, but it was sort of a “Sure, but he’s a whiner and isn’t the best teammate, and LeBron and sometimes even Dwyane Wade could beat him on any given night” type of best player.
There can be no doubt though after the Lakers closed out the Spurs 100-92 last night. Kobe had an absolutely dominant series against one of his toughest defenders, and broke the will of the defending champs in the second halves of Games 1 and 5.
It’s not easy or that smart to compare Kobe with Michael Jordan because as Kobe grew up, he stopped trying to be a mini-MJ. Now their games are different in several different ways. But the one thing Kobe is the first to capture since Jordan played was the ability to scare the hell out of the other team when the ball’s in his hand.
When Kobe had the ball in transition last night in those transcendent second halves, when he wasn’t exactly sprinting but pushing the ball fast enough to make the Spurs uncomfortable, the Staples Center crowd pulsated as if sensing a knockout in a heavyweight fight. When Kobe and the crowd came together in their intent to bury the Spurs, usually following a rebound from Pau Gasol, it was an inevitability that Kobe would hit a floater in the lane, a fallaway jumper at the elbow, or take it straight to the basket with an array of reverse layups and dunks.
And it was clear that the Spurs were intimidated. How could they not be? They were up against a one-man force that in those two aforementioned second halves was greater than the sum of their entire team. No player has controlled such important games for such long and left players like Tim Duncan looking defeated since Jordan did the same to Karl Malone and John Stockton. And never since Jordan has a player been so much better than everybody else than Kobe is right now. LeBron, you have some work to do.