Kobe was brilliant against the Suns in the 2010 Western Conference Finals.
The fondest memories I have of my early-to-mid teenage years come from staying up way past my bedtime (I was a freshman in high school in 2010) and watching Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers wage war against Western Conference foes as they looked to repeat as NBA champions.
It was Game 6 of the Lakers’ 2010 Western Conference Series against Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns, and I was geeked as Los Angeles had the chance to clinch the series and make their way to a third straight NBA Finals appearance. This series with Phoenix was one that always resonated with me as a Lakers fan because it had everything you could think of: monster game’s from Kobe and Lamar Odom, trash-talking, a flummoxing Suns zone, a Ron Artest game-winning layup and swishing-and-dishing from Steve Nash.
Kobe was virtuosic as ever in this series, averaging an impressive 33.7 points, 8.3 assists and 7.2 rebounds per game on 52% shooting from the field and 43% from behind the arc. He single-handedly dominated Phoenix, but I knew he’d need assistance from everyone in Game 6 as the Lakers looked to claim their first road victory of the series.
Current Basketball Society graphic designer and best friend of mine Ryan Cowan and I decided to catch the game at a buddy’s house, so we were forced to listen to the beginning of the contest on the radio as he cruised to our boy’s crib. I turned up the radio way past normal listening volumes, and contorted my head to hear the radio perfectly as if it already wasn’t loud enough.
“HELL YEAH,” I screamed as Andrew Bynum connected on the first shot of the game, a hook from the left block. My shouting startled Ryan as he was driving, and he wasn’t too happy about it. “What the f*** is wrong with you dude!? You can’t be screaming stuff like that.” Sometimes that’s just life with a Lakers fan.
We finally made it to our friend’s house midway through the first quarter, and the Lakers were looking like a well-oiled machine. They led Phoenix by a healthy margin at halftime, and then blew things open in the third quarter with precise ball movement and some hot shooting from Artest and Kobe.
The game appeared to be well out of reach for the Suns until Sasha Vujacic whacked Slovenian rival Goran Dragic with an elbow, which ignited a serious Phoenix run.
The Lakers saw their 15-point lead dwindle down to 5 and the Suns looked primed to take the series to a seventh and final game in Los Angeles. My premature planning of a Finals watch party came to a screeching halt, as I realized the Lakers weren’t guaranteed a victory just yet. I chomped on my nails, and my gloat-filled cheers were reduced to nervous gasps. It was now Kobe Time.
Kobe went berserk in the game’s waning moments, connecting on numerous “WTF” shots. He was locked in as he looked to eclipse the Suns and avenge that brutal first round loss in 2006 as the Lakers squandered a 3-1 series lead and fell to Phoenix in Game 7. The Suns went on to knock Bryant and the Lakers out of the postseason in the following year, officially making them one of Kobe’s most hated teams in the West.
My favorite bucket is that gorgeous fadeaway over Grant Hill with 34.2 seconds remaining. After connecting on such a tough shot, Bryant proceeded to tap Suns head coach Alvin Gentry, indicating, “it’s over.” Indeed it was. Bryant finished with 37 points (12-of-25 shooting) and 6 rebounds and the Lakers topped the Suns 111-103.
Bryant and the Lakers dispatched of the Suns and went on to capture Bryant’s fifth NBA championship and Los Angeles’ 16th by defeating the Boston Celtics in a grueling seven game Finals series.
As triumphant as that victory over Boston was, the one against Phoenix has always stuck with me a little bit more. Kobe played some of the most brilliant and efficient (for those who harp on field goal percentages) basketball of his career, and was dominant in every facet of the game. He was not to be denied, and when a legend is in a zone like that, there’s not much you can do as an opponent but pray for the best. As a fan, basking in that glory is intoxicating. I guess these down days for the Lakers just serve as the hangover.
Do you remember this performance from Kobe in Game 6? Which Kobe moment would you like to see featured in next week’s #24Tuesday? Hit me on Twitter with thoughts and opinions! @wcboyer24