March 29, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant (24) heads down court during the second half of the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Staples Center. Thunder won 102-93. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
You shouldn't be, because as the Lakers played a game so early on a Saturday that we forgot to even preview it, Kobe Bryant gave us all a legendary performance. No, not the kind where he hits shot after ridiculous shot en route to some crazy ass point total, not the kind where he has complete control of the game and can do as he pleases. Instead, Kobe treated us to a legendary performance of perseverance and will. Kobe shot the ball 21 times. His first 15 were unsuccessful. Fifteen straight missed shots. There were some bad shots in there, and some good ones. Some contested ones, some wide open ones, and even some short ones. But there were no made ones. Through three quarters, the man didn't hit a thing.
Re-entering the game with his Lakers down double digits to a Hornets team that would still be one of the worst in the NBA even if they weren't missing 4 of their 5 starters, Kobe finally hit a jumper to start his 4th quarter. Having experience in the way Kobe operates, you might have thought that might signal the breaking of the dam, but Kobe missed his next shot. With 30 seconds left in the contest, his team still trailed by two, and his shooting percentage to that point in the 4th quarter alone (40%) still left much to be desired. His two made shots had increased his percentage on the evening to double digits ... 10%.
So Kobe Bryant did what anybody would ... he launched a contested three-pointer early in the shot clock. And he drained it. Of course he did. He is a legend. Sometimes legends are made through spectacular feats, and sometimes they are made by people who just don't know when to quit and are rewarded for their perseverance. This isn't about clutch. This isn't about shot selection. This is about a man whose belief never wavers, no matter what happens. A man who never shrinks from the moment. This is about a man with stones.
There are plenty of reasons to be disappointed in this game. The Lakers just struggled to beat the New Orleans Hornets ... decimated by (or perhaps aided by, since their goal isn't really success at the moment) injuries ... at home. Kobe's terrible shooting played a big role, but the Lakers as a team were once again slow to loose balls and defensive rotations. The big men both played well (21 and 11 for Gasol, 19 and 10 for Bynum) and Ramon Sessions made the kind of influence that is easily lost if it isn't highlighted - 10 points and 10 assists for Ramon, and just one turnover for the first time as a starter., but the bottom line is that the Lakers were once again out worked and out hustled to many loose balls and rebounds.
At this point, seeing the Lakers struggle with the energy of a team literally full of nobodies, one has to be concerned that Mike Brown's policy of big minutes for his stars is starting to bear the negative fruit that we might have feared it would. Kobe is leading the league in minutes played, Pau Gasol is in the top five, and Bynum wouldn't be far behind if he hadn't missed the first four games of the season. Bryant's sustained poor shooting over the last few weeks is something we're not used to from him, and tired legs is a very valid possible explanation. The lack of defensive intensity across the board can be similarly explained. There are reasons to be very, very concerned.
But for today, just bask in the bizarre glory of Kobe Bryant's latest masterpiece. It was hideous, painful, difficult to watch, and in the end, I can't think of a game that better personifies a player. The man simply has no quit in him, and if nothing else, that is something worth savoring.