The Lakers got a big 99-98 win over the Hawks last night to move back to .500 on the season. While that sentence just as easily serves as a reminder of how awful the majority of this Laker season has been (we’re celebrating them moving back to .500?), the fact remains that they’re still right in the playoff race, and given that they’re 13-5 over their last 18, it’s reasonable to think they’ll be able to unseat the Jazz, Rockets, or Warriors to become one of the more dangerous low seeds in memory.
The driving force behind last night’s win? Kobe. Of course it was Kobe. Despite the Lakers’ high-profile acquisitions this season, anything they accomplish is going to be on Bryant’s back, and he shouldered that load ably last night with 34 points… and one huge dunk on Josh Smith rife with symbolism:
Big dunk. Impressive dunk. Especially for a 34-year-old over a 27-year-old who’s also three inches taller. The Lakers are the rising phoenix, and Kobe, rising to make a play like that at what, in basketball years, is a pretty advanced age, is the personification. It’s perfect – maybe too perfect. A simple search for reactions to the dunk you just saw turns up phrases like:
When was the last time you saw Kobe throw one down like THIS?
@KobeBryant threw down a dunk last night that was reminiscent of his early playing days.
That Kobe dunk was nice last night, felt like it was 98 again
Was it such a throwback to old times, though? Here’s something Kobe did last Thursday:
Here’s something Kobe did about three weeks ago:
And here’s something Kobe did about a month ago:
Point being: appreciate that dunk on Josh Smith. Kobe doesn’t do something like that every game. But nobody does something like that every game, except for maybe LeBron. Given the moment of the game and that he was dunking right in the face of a bigger guy who’s also one of the game’s most athletic players, last night’s dunk probably was better than any of the other three recent highlights we put in this post… but not by much. Kobe’s still good for way more highlight dunks than most players in the league.
The amazing thing about last night’s dunk wasn’t that Kobe somehow summoned the Kobe of a decade ago – it’s that he didn’t have to summon the Kobe of a decade ago. He’s still got it in his 34-year-old, 1,400-plus (including playoffs) NBA-games-played self to do something like that. To us, that’s even better than a brief brush with the fountain of youth.