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Friday, March 23, 2007

60 More Reasons That Kobe Bryant is the NBA's Best Player

Kobe Bryant may just keep scoring 50-plus points per game until every single person on the face of the Earth is forced to acknowledge that he is in fact the best player in the NBA. He erupted for 60 points on Thursday night in a 121-119 L.A. Lakers win over the Memphis Grizzlies, becoming just the fourth player in NBA history to score 50-plus points in three straight games (Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor and Michael Jordan are the others). Bryant shot 20-37 from the field (including 3-7 on three pointers) and 17-18 from the free throw line. In his last three contests--all Lakers wins--he has scored 65, 50 and 60 points while shooting 60-111 from the field (.541), 15-28 from three point range (.536) and 40-44 (.909) on his free throws. Let those statistics wash over you for a minute: .541, .536 and .909 in three wins while scoring at least 50 points in each game. Could anybody else in the NBA put up numbers like that? The answer is clearly no, because Bryant's 175 points in three games is the best such streak in the last 40 years; he also holds down second place in that category with a 169 point run in three games last season. Bryant is the first player to have three straight games of 50 or more points since Michael Jordan did it during the 1986-87 season. Bryant tied Michael Jordan for second place on the career list with his fourth 60 point game; Wilt Chamberlain scored 60-plus points an amazing 32 times. Bryant also moved into a tie with Elgin Baylor for third place on the career list for 50 point games (17; the Lakers are 13-4 in those contests).

Why is Bryant consistently able to score at such a prolific rate while shooting such phenomenal percentages? The answer to that question is also the reason that he is the game's best player. Bryant has no weaknesses in his arsenal: He has honed his footwork to perfection; he is a master of the shot fake; he has almost unlimited range; he can finish with either hand; he can dribble with either hand in traffic. Bryant is beautiful to watch from a technical and fundamental standpoint. He is not just jacking up shots; he reads the defense and sets up whoever is guarding him with moves and countermoves. Just watching the highlights of the Memphis game, you can see his use of the jab step, the pump fake, the escape dribble, the ability to pivot and many other fundamental moves. Then, on top of his mastery of fundamental skills, Bryant has been blessed with tremendous athletic ability and he has conditioned himself to an incredible level. Memphis' Mike Miller said, "When he gets going like that there's not a whole lot you can do. That's why Kobe is who he is. He doesn't get tired. He's in great shape. He's got his foot on the accelerator the whole game." That is something that I mentioned after Bryant's 81 point game last year: when he walked off the court, he did not even look tired. When Jordan scored 63 points in a double overtime playoff game versus Boston, he looked exhausted coming down the stretch--and he also was in great condition. Bryant's physical conditioning and mental toughness play a big part in his ability to score the way he does--but none of this would be possible without his mastery of offensive fundamentals. Young players should TIVO Bryant's moves, replay them and learn how to use proper footwork, ball fakes and so forth.

I know that somebody is going to say, "But Kobe Bryant did it against Memphis, the worst team in the league." I have two words for that somebody: "Shut up." It's not like Bryant has such a great team around him--despite his sublime effort, the Lakers only won by two. Without him, they could very well have a worse record than Memphis. Bryant is doing things that have not been done in decades, feats that have only been matched by the likes of Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor and Michael Jordan--the best of the best in the history of the game.

The most significant thing about these games is not who the Lakers have been playing but when the games have been played: down the stretch in a tight playoff race. The Lakers need to keep winning in order to maintain or improve their position in the tough Western Conference and it is apparent that they need for Bryant to score a lot of points to do this. Lakers Coach Phil Jackson has been urging Bryant to be more aggressive offensively and Bryant has certainly responded to the challenge, so anyone who would say that Bryant is playing selfishly by shooting so much does not understand a thing about basketball.

posted by David Friedman @ 3:05 AM



At Friday, March 23, 2007 8:14:00 AM, Blogger illest said...

I posted this in te last post but it applies here:

I usually dont comment on your post with Bryant because you are overboard with his praise.

But look, David, after watching him hit the Grizzlies for 60 even a hoops fan like myself has to comment. I didnt see all of the top scorers ever but I have seen all of them in the past 25 years. Bryant is definitely number 2. Of all time he is 4. (Wilt, Mike, Baylor, him) Thats just right now though. (laughs) The best player in the league.........please its no contest. Bryant is way better than anyone in the league. Its not because he can score 60 but its because he is smarter than everyone else and he wants to kill.

First of all, ever year he gets better. He doesnt get that many offensive fouls which means he is in control. He doesnt take bad shots anymore like he used to (and he used to take a lot of bad shots.) The key difference that separates him from all of the all-time great scorers is the fools gold, or 3 point shot. When he gets hot from 3, forget it.
In a previous post when he got suspended I said he would go off. I was a few weeks late but it took the witch hunt and the elbows to get him going. Its a shame he couldnt get Kidd. Thats all he needs. They dont need inside scoring because he scores so well. Kidd would have been perfect.

There is more but Ill end it with this. Before he retires he will score 90 or 100 in a game. Wow what a limb I went out on.

At Friday, March 23, 2007 8:29:00 AM, Blogger illest said...

The key is fundamentals. All of the greatest players have them. Bryant uses them very well. As you David previously mentioned, the jab steps, the use of the triple threat position (which kids dont use...do they still teach it?), and there is no wasted motion. Thats why he doesnt get tired. There is no over dribbling or dumb shots. You could tell he still studies Jordan. I bet he goes home and watches Come Fly With Me and other Jordan games. His jumper looks the same, pump fakes, footwork... everything is Mike. The only difference is the 3. But if you could duplicate the best ever why not?

Now in Mike's 63 against one of the best teams ever he didnt look tired at all. But the overtimes helped and I still think that was one of the greatest offensive performances Ive seen.

They play the Hornets tonight. I can see somewhere between 50-60 tonight too. Plus you know he is aware of March Madness and is letting you know hes the one who is mad this month. No more superlatives from me David.

At Friday, March 23, 2007 4:37:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

I saw your comment in the other post and posted an answer there. I agree that it would have been great to see a Kidd-Kobe combo and think that it is possible that Kobe could get 90 or 100 but it depends on circumstances. Just to even say that is remarkable, though, because I don't think that anybody else could have done it. DT got his 73 when his teammates force fed him on the last day of the season to win the scoring title, as did DRob when he scored 71--and those games are obviously not even close to 100. Kobe got 81 and it looked like he didn't break a sweat. He makes 50 look deceptively easy.

I guess it is a subjective thing, but if you look at MJ in the second overtime of that game I thought that he was out of gas. I haven't checked the tape or watched that game in a long time but I think that he did not score in the second extra session.

I tend to think that Kobe will not get 50 a fourth straight time. Only Wilt did that. I figure he gets 35-40 tonight.

At Friday, March 23, 2007 6:05:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah he scored 60. But they won by only 2 points! Wow! They were a mere 2 missed FGs away from losing that game in spite of KB24's heroic efforts. The Kobe scoring binge is covering up the bigger issue of this team and what we Laker fans have been complaining about the whole season. DEFENSE!!! Kobe scored at will on the Grizzlies defense. Yeah I'll take that! But the Grizzlies scored at will against them too. What is this team with the worst NBA record's scoring average? And how many did they score last night. Their defense made Chucky Atkins look like Steve Nash-lite! This has happened again and again and again this season. Teams who suck, teams who can't score come up with Phoenix-like numbers against the Lakers. Yeah we're winning now with the help of KB24's streak, but this ain't the recipe for a successfull playoffs run. This may win you a game or 2 in the playoffs, but never will be enough to win a series. If this trend continues, we're one and DONE! There was a column the other day that said, Kobe 115, growth zero. Now you can make it Kobe 175, growth zero. If in the unfortunate event that Kobe goes cold starting tonight, we'll see another losing streak. The WHOLE TEAM needs to realize that Kobe's scoring parade will not cover the big problems all the time. They need to bring it on the defensive end. Otherwise, this will all be for naught.

At Saturday, March 24, 2007 1:15:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now 4 50+ games from Kobe! Kobe is the best.

Also Kobe scored 62 in 3 qtrs against Mavs, the team went to the Finals last season.

At Saturday, March 24, 2007 4:06:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

I agree that the Lakers are having problems at the defensive end but that is not Kobe's fault. Look at who killed them tonight: Paul and Chandler, a pg and a c. That is what I have been saying all year; the Lakers have a CBA level point guard (Smush) and are very young/raw at center. If Kobe does not score like this, the Lakers would be terrible. They will either have to upgrade the personnel in the offseason or hope for a lot of development from Bynum and Farmar.


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