Last night, Kobe Bryant put on one of the most mesmerizing shooting exhibitions I’ve ever seen. Double-teamed; fadeaways; on the dribble; from downtown; hands in his eye sockets; none of it mattered to Kobe. He was in a zone the likes of which only Michael Jordan and a couple other guys in NBA history could ever enter.
But there’s another side to the story: As good as Kobe was, as amazing as what we witnessed last night happened to be, some people will make the argument that he Lakers would have been better off if Kobe hadn’t gone buck wild. I don’t know if I agree with that, but there is definitely one thing I took from Kobe’s barrage (other than the fact that he is a ridiculous, ridiculous basketball player):
I would hate — no, despise — playing basketball with Kobe Bryant.
When he gets into “Kobe vs. the World mode” (which admittedly isn’t every night), Kobe berates teammates who don’t get him the ball, takes shot after impossible shot, and then berates his teammates a little more if they make even the smallest screw-up. Not only are his teammates unlikely to touch the ball, but if they ever make a play they’d better convert a basket — if not, they’re getting an earful from Kobe.
One Kobe moment from last night stood out more than any other — more even than any absurd shot he sent miraculously through the basket. During the middle of Kobe’s hot streak, Luke Walton had just gotten into the game and made a nice drive from the wing into the middle of the lane. When the defense collapsed, Walton kicked it out to a wide open — and I mean wide open — Derek Fisher for three. Fisher’s three rimmed out and a timeout was soon called. Kobe could be seen screaming at Walton, saying (I’m guessing), “Give me the damn ball. I’m hot. Pass me the rock and get the hell out of my way. Don’t try to make a play, don’t pass to anyone else… or else.”
The going gets tough for the Lakers and the furious Bryant glare comes out. He swings his arm at officials even after plays during which he wasn’t fouled. He demands to defend whoever’s scoring for the other team. He throws his arms in the air after teammates’ turnovers. He looks off open teammates and keeps the ball to himself. Would you want to play with him? Would you want to be a designated defender and Kobe’s personal bitch, while he plays 1-on-5?
Not me. As great as Kobe is, as mind-boggling as his talents can be, I would never want to play on his team. Not in a million years. Give me a lesser player but one who will pass me the ball when I’m open. Give me someone with half Kobe’s talents but who will run the offense. Give me a guy 6’1″ and pretty slow but who won’t humiliate me on national television.
Kobe Bryant is an amazing basketball player, quite possibly the best in the world. Last night was a testament to his other-worldly talents as a player.
But as a teammate, it was also a glaring display of his shortcomings.