Home > Commentary > Commentary: Hating On A 41-Point Outing

Commentary: Hating On A 41-Point Outing

Let me begin by saying, in full disclosure, that I dislike Kobe Bryant.  I’ve never enjoyed his on and off the court ego driven antics, admired the way he treats people, or thought this was cool.  What is indisputable about the man, however, is his uncanny offensive ability.  Kobe Bryant will go down as either the greatest or second greatest player of the past decade. The evolvement of his game is comparable to Jordan, in the way he’s made us think transforming your offensive strategy to accommodate your body’s limitations is easy, is beyond impressive.  He’s a tireless worker, top 10 all-time competitor, and virtually complete scoring talent, but does his offensive monopolization really help? One significant criticism that’s followed him throughout his career (specifically the post-Shaq, pre-Gasol years) is the way he holds onto the ball with a black hole level of self-seeking dominance. A microcosm of how spectacular and mind blowing his skills are can be encapsulated on January 22, 2006, when Bryant dropped an unforgettable 81 points on Toronto.

Equally astounding about this performance is the two assist tally.  Two. Assists.  In his 48 starts this season he’s recorded four or fewer assists 26 times, including yesterday’s 0 assist, 41 point performance in a loss to Boston. While nobody in Laker purple dared chastise Bryant publicly after the game for his blatant lack of recognizing he has four teammates on the court with him at all times, don’t let the game’s basic principles fall on deaf ears.  Basketball is a team game that values passing as much as shooting. Comparing Bryant’s performance to Paul Pierce (who finished with 32 points on 11 fewer shots), one’s brilliance came naturally within the flow of the game while the other’s looked like a chunk of metal being forced down a garbage disposal. Pierce got his looks several different ways: back cutting Luke Walton for an easy layup, playing the inside outside game with Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Garnett for wide open three pointers, and when isolated with Ron Artest, making quick one or two dribble moves before getting his shot off.  To contrast, Kobe would bring the ball up the court, drive into the teeth of Boston’s defense on an isolation play, and either make an extremely difficult shot look easy, or make an extremely difficult shot look extremely difficult.  There was never involvement of any teammates (Kobe once took 15 straight shots during a late game stretch) and as the Celtics started to pull away, all Bryant could do was go one on five while every other Laker stood by, out of rhythm, and incapable of contributing.

Here, courtesy of Rob Mahoney at Off The Dribble, is a clip of what I’m talking about:

Here’s J.A. Adande’s take:

The new standard the Celtics have established that the Lakers haven’t reached is in the decidedly less physical but more aesthetically pleasing category of teamwork.

“When we play together as a team,” said Paul Pierce, who led the Celtics with 32 points, “we’re tough to beat.”

There was none of that from the Lakers, with Kobe Bryant taking as many shots as the Lakers’ entire starting frontcourt. Even though Bryant was more efficient than usual — he made 11 of his first 18 shots and 16 of 29 on his way to 41 points — the Lakers still couldn’t hang with Boston. Bryant’s offensive outburst caused his teammates to check out and stop participating in their sets.

On one first-half play, Lamar Odom remained in the corner while Bryant brought the ball upcourt, Odom not bothering to prepare for a pass he knew would never come (it didn’t). On a second-half set, with Bryant on the wing and a low-post spot there for the taking, neither Odom nor Pau Gasol bothered to occupy it, as they both stood near the top of the key.

While this performance isn’t a surprise to anybody who’s followed Kobe’s career, it still never seises to amaze how someone so unstoppable can be a detriment to their team’s chances of victory. This isn’t to say something ridiculous like L.A. is better without him, or to completely overreact at yesterday’s 0 assist game (Kobe’s first of the year), but to watch a player who can do whatever he wants on a basketball court decide passing the ball isn’t necessary—in one of the season’s biggest games—is perplexing.

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