Whatever your reason for tuning in- escapist entertainment, civic pride, gambling interests, whatever- the greatest moments in the sports-viewing life of any fan are those that unfold when the spectacular and the unexpected converge. Last night in Los Angeles, Kobe Bryant, author of countless such moments, made his latest deposit into our memory bank.
Having relied less on athleticism this season than in any of the previous 14, and playing on a left ankle that he'd sprained exactly six weeks prior in Dallas and rolled again in the Lakers' Game 4 loss in New Orleans, Kobe was not expected to conjure up images of a mini-fro and a #8 jersey on Tuesday night. It's a good thing no one bothered to inform Kobe.
With a little under four minutes remaining in the first half and the Lakers trailing 44-40, the ball went inside to Pau Gasol. After a couple of dribbles, he was double-teamed by Trevor Ariza, who left Kobe at the top of the 3-point arc to do so. Pau quickly kicked the ball out to Kobe, with Ariza stuck in defensive No Man's Land. After catching the pass, Kobe blew past a trying-to-recover Ariza and attacked the paint with a fury. Elevating from just inside the dotted line, Kobe ignored the presence of Hornets' big man Emeka Okafor and simply took flight. Despite the best efforts of Okafor, a very good shot-blocker and interior defender, Kobe reared back and delivered a more-than-welcome dose of 2006, throwing down a vicious right-handed tomahawk dunk.
In case you missed it, here's a clip of Kobe's destruction of Okafor:
And lest you think Kobe emptied the tank elevating over Okafor, early in the second half he treated fans at the other end of Staples Center to closeup of Vintage Kobe, again beating Ariza off the dribble, this time to emphatically throw down a lefty jam over Carl Landry.
Regardless of physical state, we've not been seeing a whole lot of Kobe Bryant taking to the skies of late- hell, some idiot even wrote close to 1500 words on the beginning of the Mamba's twilight- so whatever your take on the severity of his injury, Tuesday night's performance delivered to us two jolts that are only available at the greatest address in sports- the intersection of Spectacular and Unexpected.
As an added bonus, via Lakers.com, a frame-by-frame look at Kobe's posterization of Emeka Okafor.