(I worked as a Sports Editor from late 2004 until the summer of 2006. This is one of the many columns I was able to save that were originally published in The Sun-Times of Heber Springs, Arkansas.)
Did you actually think that Kobe Bryant would have the biggest individual night in the last 45 years of the NBA, and I wouldn’t comment on it? Well, if you did, you were almost right.
I had planned to bang out a column Tuesday morning on it, but I received a piece by Jim Brown on sportsmanship for the upcoming post season basketball tournaments. I thought it was better to run that, because fans and coaches alike have requested that I revisit the sportsmanship issue.
It seems that some fans are in their typical mid-season form and need to be reality checked. Jim, as always, did a good job of making a point that needed to be readdressed, so I’ll leave it alone. For now.
As far as Kobe’s 81 Sunday night against the Raptors goes, I’m not sure what to think.
On one hand, you have to marvel at the fact that a guy can hoist 46 shots and shoot better than 50-percent.
On the other, more reasonable hand, you have to be disgusted at the fact that a guy shoots 46 times in an NBA game. He shot more times than the rest of his team combined, and only took 30 shots less than the entire Toronto squad.
One side of the coin – the Harvey Dent side – shows that the Lakers needed Kobe to take over due to the fact that they were down 19 (at home) to the lowly Raptors.
The scarred, flipped Two-Face side of that same coin reveals that he was shooting pull-up 3-pointers in the final minutes of the game, and was on the line shooting free throws in the final seconds of a double-digit win.
This 81-point performance came less than two weeks after Bryant hung 61 on the Mavericks in three quarters of play, then refused to play in the fourth because it wasn’t a close game. Everyone, including myself, smiled and let out a sigh of relief at Kobe’s unselfishness and sportsmanship. He was finally getting it!
But against the 14-29 Raptors, that newfound sportsmanship and unselfishness flew right out the window. A revealing stat from that historical game reveals that the Lakers had just 18 assists on 42 made field goals. It doesn’t take a Naismith to deduct that there was no ball movement in that vaunted triangle offense. Most of the time the rest of the purple and gold just stood around and watched Kobe bring it up and shoot without anyone else touching the ball.
Sure, the scoring output was awesome, and will be talked about from now until forever. But just check out this juxtaposition: 81 points, 2 assists.
2 assists?! This is basketball man, the greatest team sport ever invented by a Canadian!
Most people that know me will tell you I’m just scared that the 81 will further eclipse the shadow that Michael Jordan still casts upon the league. I’m sure that there are youngsters out there that think Bryant is the best that ever played.
I won’t go into yet another Jordan v. Bryant breakdown. But dig on this: If all the rules that are in place now that limit what the defense can do on the perimeter were in effect when Jordan played, he would have averaged 45 points a game. ‘Nuff said.
Astute readers will point out the fact that at the beginning of the season I declared a truce on my war with Bryant and wrote that I was actually going to root for him this year. That worked for a couple of months.
But then he viciously and blatantly elbowed the Grizzlies’ Mike Miller in the throat – because Miller had inadvertently hit him on an earlier drive – and explained it by saying you can’t just let someone come in the lane. Ok.
Then word leaked out that Bryant and Lamar Odom had gotten into it at practice over an end-of the game situation where Odom took a shot that Kobe felt should have been his.
Now after his 81, I’m even more confused. Should I jump back over the fence and take every opportunity to blast him for his egocentric arrogance? Or should I celebrate the fact that we won’t see an individual reach these kind of heights until LeBron James forgets how to pass and jacks up 50 shots per night?
I’m not sure. For now, I’ll just continue to kick myself over not watching history Sunday night.
Michael, Marcus, and McDonalds: I’m Lovin’ It
Atlanta Falcons’ quarterback Michael Vick finally broke his silence concerning his brother Marcus’ dismissal from the Virginia Tech football team. While watching the Atlanta Hawks lose to Cleveland Wednesday night, Vick said that the Hokies had overreacted in kicking Marcus to the curb.
You may remember that he was told to pack after the Gator Bowl, in which he stomped on Louisville’s Elvis (Elvis is alive!) Dumervil’s leg after a play. Replays show that Vick clearly knew what he was doing and where he was putting his foot, but then said it was an accident and that he had apologized to the King – I mean Dumervil, but during this week’s prep for the Senior Bowl, Dumervil said he hasn’t heard from Vick.
Marcus had been placed on a zero-tolerance policy by Virginia Tech after being busted with weed, then busted with underage girls, and then busted for speeding with a suspended license a couple of weeks before the Gator Bowl.
The Hokies turned their head and let Vick play, but then let him go after the stomping incident.
So, what does Vick do? He says he’s jumping to the next level anyway, then goes and waves a gun at three teenagers in a McDonald’s.
Michael explained the leg stomp by saying “sometimes your emotions just take over. Marcus didn’t do it on purpose”.
When asked about his brother’s gun brandishing incident, Vick told the Associated Press, “He didn’t do anything wrong. The world will all know when the truth comes out”.
So, I guess there’s a reasonable explanation why he pulled a gun at the golden arches. Maybe he asked for no onions and they gave him some anyway. Maybe he had just seen Michael Spurlock’s documentary Supersize Me and wanted to end the perilous threat of fatty McDonald’s cheeseburgers once and for all.
Personally, I can’t wait to hear the reasons why a young man that had – and possibly still has – a bright future would throw it all away for some knucklehead posturing under the watchful gaze of Mayor McCheese and the Hamburgler.