Although the legendary big man had his number retired at halftime and gave a very moving speech–somehow forgetting to give credit to a certain former teammate–tonight did not belong to Shaquille O’Neal. Tonight belonged to Kobe Bryant and the current Los Angeles Lakers in a battle with the Dallas Mavericks for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Bryant had himself a triple double scoring 23 points, hauling in 11 rebounds, handing out 11 assists and stealing the ball four times for good measure in the 101-81 win over the Mavericks. It’s only fitting that he would have a performance such as this only a few days removed from a bone spur in his foot while his team is playing for its playoff lives.
Center Dwight Howard also chose the best night for him to pair up his own double-double with Bryant’s stellar effort. Howard added 24 points and 12 rebounds himself. It could not have been a bigger win right now for the Lakers as they are one game out of the final spot in the Western Conference behind the Utah Jazz, with the Mavericks also trailing them in the 10th spot.
These Lakers just won’t quit. Or should I say, this Kobe Bryant just won’t quit. Over the past week or two he has shown some of the more memorable heart and determination we have seen out of him his entire career. Friday night against the Sacramento Kings, Bryant only missed 23 seconds the entire game two days after a doctor diagnosed his foot injury as a bone spur.
After publicly admitting he doesn’t plan to play past the 2014 season, Bryant sure looked like he could keep playing as long as he wants to. But, he knows that this year has been different for him. Bryant says only he truly knows what this season has been like for his body.
This season has been nothing less than taxing for Bryant physically, yet he continues to come through with huge efforts like tonight. Midway through the season when critics were doubting his team, Bryant was gearing up to make this run when all was against him. Come playoff time, I don’t know anybody that wants to play a Kobe Bryant like the one that showed up tonight.