Kobe Bryant wore a protective face mask for the first time in his NBA career and had 31 points 8 assists, and 8 rebounds. For the first time in Kobe’s career, he had to be medically cleared by somebody else in order to play. The league leading scorer with the third most minutes in the NBA had to be cleared to play by somebody other than himself. And played well he did.
“Kobe has been seen on a number of occasions today,” said neurologist Dr. Vern Williams before the game. “He’s been examined and reevaluated and he’s gone through every one of the specific tests that we’ve required him to go through and he’s passed them all with flying colors. He’s been asymptomatic, or symptom-free, as well today. Although he’s had a somewhat accelerated step-wise return to play, he has satisfied, to our satisfaction, a step-wise return to play.”
Kobe dropped a near triple double in the mask; he combined with the Lakers other 7 footers to build a lead in the third, playing solid veteran defense. Andrew Bynum pushed Nikola Pekovic around all game, and also blocked Rubio for a shot clock violation in the third quarter; in fact, the whole Lakers team abused the T-wolves in the shot blocking category winning 8 to 1. They brought a championship level defense tonight, and Kobe looked fierce.
Kobe has not said what he felt about Dwyane Wade’s strike to his nose. Wade did apologize earlier in the week, but if Kobe is peeved, he won’t tell the media; he’ll take it out on the court.
The Lakers picked up win number 21, while Kobe became the man in the iron mask. It gives his already quite robotic skill of basketball an even eerier quality, because you can tell he doesn’t like to play in the mask, but if the choice is between playing in the mask or not playing, then he chooses to play. Kobe will come to play in the mask, and Kobe will bring fear to the mask, especially if the Lakers keep on pushing all the way through the playoffs.