Feb. 20, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant (24) during the second half of the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Staples Center. Lakers won 103-92. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
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Tasked with typing a few words devoted to a game changer on the Los Angeles Lakers or league-wide, I tried to find an angle other than the obvious. I mean, a game changer? How arbitrary is that? Everybody changes games, either for good or for ill. Metta World Peace changes games with terrible outside shooting. Mike Brown changes games with inconsistent rotations. Every decision, every action changes a game.
But I couldn't do it. No matter how many unique or creative angles I can find, it always comes back to the same place. There can be only one game changer, and he is The Black Mamba. Kobe Bryant. Number 24. Everything the Lakers do revolves around him, and his capability to change a game is unmatched on this team, unsurpassed in this league.
Take last week's early contest against the Toronto Raptors, for example. The Lakers led big in the first half, only to see that lead erode in predictable fashion as the game wove its way towards an inevitably tense conclusion. In the fourth quarter, Kobe Bryant showed all that he is capable of, good and bad, in terms of changing a game. From the 6 minute mark to the 1 minute mark of the 4th quarter, Kobe took a variety of terrible shots and made a slew of poor decisions. The isolation of the ball, and the offense, in his hands seemed a sure recipe for disaster. The Lakers started that period up 4, and ended it down 4, with a minute left to play, the chance of victory obscurely waving in the distance.
So Kobe changed the game again. Three pointer .. bang! Steal of an inbounds pass ... assist to the trailing MWP. Lakers lead. Down again after a Calderon score, Kobe nails a fade away jumper with 4 seconds to play. These are plays a game changer makes, plays that Kobe has made time and time again.
Kobe is the Lakers' gamechanger. Nobody else could possibly deserve the title. The way he changes a game isn't always positive, but his influence can never be in doubt. And in the bottom line, the man wins far, far more than he loses.