This ‘Old Fella’ Has Still Got It

Jeff Skibiski —  February 21, 2011

537137-kobe-bryant
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images/AFP

In a season of record-breaking achievements, Kobe nearly added another one to his résumé last night, coming within five points of tying Wilt Chamberlain’s all-time single-game All-Star scoring record of 42 points, set in 1962. Bryant’s final stat line of 29 minutes, 37 points (14-26 shooting), and 14 rebounds (10 offensive) was still plenty good enough to earn him his record-tying fourth All-Star Most Valuable Player award.

“It feels great, being at home here and playing in front of the home crowd,” said #24 after the game. “This will be my last All-Star game in front of these home fans, so it feels good to do it.”

For those of us watching at home or lucky enough to be inside of STAPLES Center, Bryant’s performance was a true sight to behold. After hanging around a noticeably light-hearted, jovial Kobe at practice all weekend, I’m not sure any of us really got the sense that we were going to witness the type of special display that we saw in the West’s 148-143 victory over the East All-Stars.

“I talked to him right before the game and I told him let’s go, and he’s one of those guys and he’s a lot like me—an ultimate competitor,” said Bryant’s fellow backcourt member Chris Paul. “I know the All-Star games are supposed to be fun and games, but at the end of the day, we want to win.”

No one wants to win more so than Kobe and it is that insatiable desire that continues to separate him from his peers, both past and present.

“You could tell he started out from the start, he wanted to get the MVP; he was not passing the ball, at all,” said East starter Amar’e Stoudemire. “But that’s Kobe.”

On paper, it sounds like the Knicks center is taking a jab at Kobe’s 26 field goal attempts (he made 14 of them, by the way). In the actual media room, Stoudemire’s tone was more one of reverence than disrespect. Truth be told, Amar’e has seen many a night like last night while going head-to-head for years against Bryant as a member of the Phoenix Suns. Other players like Kevin Durant — who up until a few years ago was watching Kobe on his TV screen — were left in awe.

“It was like playing in a playground,” said the Thunder star. “It was like a pick-up game almost. Just to watch it, I see it on TV all the time, I play against him all the time. But to be on his team and see the things that he was doing out there, is just amazing. As a young player like me, I grew up watching him, and to play alongside him is just an honor.”

Why any one of the media, fans or fellow players still wind up surprised when he puts on a show like he did last night remains one the NBA’s true unsolved mysteries, unless you’re West Coach Greg Popovic.

“He’s one hell of a player,” said Popovic, who’s been witness to countless games like last night from Kobe in the enduring Lakers vs. Spurs rivalry. “He’s Kobe. He does things like that. We shouldn’t be surprised.”

At this stage of his career, Kobe’s motor is more of a diesel engine than a shiny new electric one. Last night was just the latest reminder, though, that he still has enough juice to rev up the old car when he so chooses. After all, they don’t call him Mamba for nothing; Bryant perfected this play dead-and-strike act long ago.

“I joked with him today and called him the Old Fella,” said Durant, showing an admirable amount of deference for a player who is the league’s reigning scoring champ. “He’s been here a long time, but he’s still playing like he’s 22-years-old. You know, as a player, you only can hope and pray for a career like he’s had; a lot of championships, a lot of scoring titles. So it was an honor to play alongside a guy like that. So if he passes the torch on to me, I guess I know what to do with it.”

That day when Kobe will inevitably pass the proverbial torch to the likes of LeBron and Durant is indeed coming, but if his MVP performance is any indicator, they’re going to have to wait a while.

Jeff Skibiski

Posts

19 responses to This ‘Old Fella’ Has Still Got It

  1. Not to get off Topic Breaking News Carmello traded to Knicks

  2. I enjoyed the write-up Jeff. It was a nice day for Kobe in LA for sure.

    On a totally unrelated note, Melo definitely a Knick now, with Denver getting quite a lot in return. And new rumours about Boston taking a run at prising Battier away from Houston…

  3. The ASG was great fun for Lakers fans. Seeing the team go 4-0 this week against

    ATL
    @POR
    LAC
    @OKC

    would be even more fun. I am not, however, holding my breath.

  4. Finally this Melo nonsense comes to an end. I am really, really, really hating this new age of the spoiled superstar Lebron and Bosh have ushered in. Now the Deron Williams and Dwight Howard watches will start. It’s infuriating.

    You want to hold your front office accountable? Sign 1 and 2 year deals. If you want the money and security, shut up and honor your deal.

  5. Snoop – No great fan of the man, but ‘Melo did honour his deal. He used his immense leverage to get what he wanted, and I don’t blame him for that, per se.

    Lay it to the incompetence of the respective front offices involved, or to the shear complexity of the deal, or to both factors. (The Knicks owner is a fool if he is still paying any attention at all to Isiah Thomas … )

  6. R – You’re right that in some sick sense, no one’s really at fault. The team didn’t want to lose him for nothing, and Melo wouldn’t sign an extension with a team he didn’t want to play for. Nothing wrong there, theoretically. Maybe it was the constant media coverage, the odd and sometimes amateurish negotiating tactics between the Nuggets and Nets, but something about this process grated on me in a way little about basketball does. But if I sit back and look at it, I guess Carmelo did honor his deal for the most part.

    The media speculation is a huge part of the annoyance, I think. It started with the summer of 2010 speculation, but the newest fad is starting to write about things years before they happen. The Howard/Paul/Williams watches will start soon, and I really can’t stand this media trend. It’s a substitute for actual writing and analysis.

  7. This massive Melo trade was really a win-win-lose for the sides.

    1) The Knicks got Melo, another top 10 player to go with Amar’e, plus Chauncey Billups who is an upgrade over Raymond Felton, plus Corey Brewer, who could be a solid rotation player for them.

    2) The Nuggets get 3 quality players and Mozgov from the Knicks. But the win for Denver is getting 3 draft picks and shedding a ton of money (took in 16M, shipped out over 33M), plus a huge trade exception. While they won’t be contenders, they’ll certainly be competitive, and it’s not like they were contenders before the trade.

    3) The T-Wolves get Anthony Randolph and all his potential, plus a half-year rental of Eddy Curry’s corpse. I’m not really liking the T-Wolves involvement, but I guess Brewer was somewhat redundant given their glut of wing players, and they can afford to take a flier on Randolph.

  8. Wow– the eastern conf playoffs are going to be a war! With Melo in NY, plus the great play of Chicago and the always dangerous Orl, the days of a Bos/Mia ECF lock are dead and buried. Comparatively, the west is a cakewalk… no disrespect to OKC, but I would be STUNNED if the Lakers, Spurs or Mavs didn’t go to the Finals.

  9. D-Will and Howard to the Lakers next year please.

  10. Snoop – Methinks part of the overall sickness is due to the internet driven 24/7 news cycle.

    (Come to think of it, why am I typing this at almost 11pm with work looming tomorrow? arrgh!!)

  11. A great write-up Darius, about KB24. He just seems like he is going on and on like the energizer bunny, over the years.

  12. Yes we can talk about the Carmelo trade… But why talk about a team who won’t make it out of the first round?

    The difference between Kobe and Lebron as Adande put it the day before the all star game is that Lebron hates to lose… But Kobe loves to win. And that was the difference in the game. Is Lebron a better player? There is no question. But Kobe came out driving his team to an early lead, and by the time Lebron wanted to avoid the loss at almost all costs… His team was already too far behind. I guess sometimes avoiding a loss at all costs means not being afraid to lose. Kobe isn’t afraid to play hard in an all star game and lose. He isn’t a afraid to step on toes or not look cool. Five championships don’t happen by accident.

  13. I feel pity for the small market teams.

  14. Great summary of the amazing game #24 had out there. It still makes me laugh that Kobe is known as “Old Fella” but I guess hoops-wise he is in the second half of his career. Anyway, great write-up!

  15. Nice write up on kb24, the black mamba thought those young guns the ABC’s of basketball.

  16. @sT #11
    Darius didn’t write this, Jeff did.

    Wow, all these trades just gave LA all kinds of flexibility in 2012 for free agents unless there is in fact a franchise tag placed on players. If there is, then we would have to wait another year. Howard and DWill or either would be nice.

  17. @DWade in Miami

    Why wouldn’t you try and win the MVP in your house when everyone is watching? Duh!!!!

  18. Aaron – the big difference between LeBron and Kobe is that LeBron cares more about his image and having fun than winning. Kobe is obsessed with winning and being the best b-ball player he can be (not that he gets it right all of the time).

    LeBron is just like Shaq in that he has otherworldy athletic/physical talent, but he is content to let the talent be enough. LeBron, like Shaq was, is always the most physically gifted player on the court and it is not even close. But winning for him is motivated by his desire to grow his brand and image more than the hyper competitiveness that drives Kobe. I am not saying it is a bad thing. It simply is what it is.

  19. 9, I think Williams has said he wants to go to NYK when his current contract is up, so unless the salary structure changes in such a way as to make that impossible, it’ll probably happen.

    If I were Howard, I’d wanna get away from Stan Van Gundy, too. But if I were Howard and wanted to win multiple championships, I’d sign with OKC.

    Unless the Lakers give up one of Kobe, Pau, or Bynum, they’re not going to get a top-flight free agent. Teams just aren’t overspending as much as they used to (only 6 luxury tax teams after the Melo trade), and the US economy isn’t tanking as bad as it was before (at least in the stock market), so no one is hurting for cash (which is the true cause of the Gasol trade).

    Which leaves CP3 out in the cold. Let’s hope he gets a good new home when New Orleans gets contracted.