Kobe Bryant became the youngest player in NBA history to reach 20,000 career points yesterday, and he did it in style.
Bryant went for 39 points, 11 boards and 8 dimes on 14-for-28 shooting, including 5-of-12 from deep, as the Lakers held on to beat the Knicks, 95-90, at Madison Square Garden on Sunday afternoon. The numbers don't say enough though in describing the tale of two Kobe personas displayed.
Bryant the scorer got his afternoon started with a beautiful stop-pump fake-lean-and-then-shoot move from the right elbow. It was a sign of things to come, as he spent most of the day scoring acrobatically, including an excellent hanging-in-the-air-count-it-and-the-foul lay-in at the expense of David Lee later in the first half. He levitated for dunks and hit a couple of three-points from the moon, jawing at Spike Lee all the while. It was vintage Kobe.
But it was Kobe at his best not just for the scoring that the day will be remembered for, but for the changed player that many in Los Angeles hope he is becoming. Kobe led his team in all three statistical categories, and he threw two perfect bullet passes in particular, one that led to a monster dunk for Chris Mihm and one that led to a wide-open Trevor Ariza three to beat the first-half buzzer. A year ago, Kobe drive into a triple team to force up a shot at the end of the half. Not yesterday, and in many regards, not this season. Bryant screamed and gave Mihm an emphatic high-five on his way down the floor after the dunk, and he spent the afternoon working to keep his teammates involved and the Laker offense working smoothly. If this type of performance keeps up, supporters of the purple and gold will could be reveling for quite some time to come.
Steve's daily posts can be found on the CelticsBlog NBA page. Check back daily for quality content.