Article on game
One-Man Show Wins Him Over
He's thrown shiny televisions and flagrant elbows, and that's just in the last two weeks.
He's ripped the league and chided teammates, and that's just since Christmas.
He's cost his team games by being suspended, cost them games by being wild, cost them credibility simply by being Kobe.
But, goodness, he's fun. And gracious, he's good.
And during moments like the fourth quarter of Saturday's Laker-Clipper game at Staples Center, when Kobe Bryant goes beyond all that, beyond words, beyond wonder, beyond the roof?
Maybe everyone needs to just shut up and clap.
Love him or hate him, maybe it's time this town just relax and let Kobe Bryant entertain them.
I'm writing this with three minutes left in a game that the Clippers were controlling, until Kobe.
I'm writing this while completely changing a column I had previously written, until Kobe.
The Lakers defeated the Clippers, 112-109, and I probably blew my deadline by an equal margin, because of Kobe.
Twenty-two points in that fourth quarter. A spinning, falling, banking layup through three defenders in the final seconds, giving the Lakers the lead for the last time. Tight defense on Shaun Livingston that led to a Smush Parker steal that clinched it.
Fifty points for the game. Forty points for the second half.
Unplugged Kobe. Crazy theater. Mad TV.
No, this wasn't his 62-point night against Dallas. It was better than that. That game was an exhibition of his talent. This game was a display of his will.
Yes, in the final minutes, he shot too much. Overall, his 50 points took 41 shots, and that is too many. But as everyone knows, there are times with Bryant when you must take the bad with the good.
This, in the end, was all good. Because he did it in the end.
You know Bryant's power. We all know his power. We may resent it, or grow tired of it, or feel he occasionally abuses it, but he's got it.
Beginning in the fourth quarter, he owned the building with it.
Clippers led, 82-78. Bryant had hit made nine of 23 shots. His teammates looked tired. The Clippers looked inspired.
Bryant's first shot missed, but the ball bounced out of bounds off the Clippers, and the Lakers retained possession.
And here he came.
A fall-away three pointer. Good. Another fall-away three pointer. Good. Another quick jumper. Good.
In between these Bryant baskets, the Clippers committed three turnovers and suddenly trailed by four.
"Ko-be, Ko-be, Ko-be" cried the crowd.
And it was a Clipper home game.
A soaring three pointer. Good. He was double-teamed so he passed to Brian Cook for a three pointer. Good.
By then, the Lakers were up by six points, at which point Bryant made another three pointer to make it a nine-point lead.
And on it went for the rest of the quarter, Bryant either scoring, passing to a man who was open because he was desperately double-teamed, or driving to the hoop and getting fouled.
Double teams became triple teams. After one whistle, Cuttino Mobley simply grabbed Bryant and spun him around as if attempting to diminish his heat.
It was so freakish, Sam Cassell laughed, Mike Dunleavy looked to the heavens and sighed, and those 20,154 feuding fans suddenly seemed to join the same team.
"Ko-be, Ko-be, Ko-be."
As usual, he didn't just give the Lakers a victory, but the brief inspiration of avoiding losing four consecutive games to the Clippers for the first time since the Clips moved to Los Angeles in 1983.
Not to mention, he thumped the town out of its basketball doldrums.
Entering the latest edition of the city rivalry, it was the resistible force against the movable object, the tortoise and the tortoise, David squared.
It was two struggling basketball teams in the biggest game in town since the Rose Bowl, only this time it was USC's defense against USC's defense.
The Clippers entered the game having won three of their last 11 games.
"We're treading water here," said Coach Mike Dunleavy.
The Lakers entered the game have won only one of their last six games.
"This game would have been more interesting if we were playing like they were playing -- 'treading water,' " said Coach Phil Jackson. "Because we're sinking."
Amid all the splashing and kicking, there emerged one clear advantage. The Lakers had hot Kobe Bryant. The Clippers did not have injured Corey Maggette.
It should have been enough.
And, man, was it ever.
"Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts."