Saturday, March 24, 2012




With all due respect to the guard greats. Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo are last weeks Los Angeles Times stories. Even the headlines that departed Laker legend Derek Fisher left this franchise with are taking a side story, even if its one that should be told and retold. The script has been rewritten in Los Angeles and its been played by new Point Guard leading man Ramon Sessions. Now in the city of angels this numerical seventh, heaven sent changing of the guard is being greeted with as much hype and excitement as Jeremy Lin in New York and the rest of the world. You best believe that the basketball planet is watching the Lakers again now.

Its only been a week and change, but what a change its been. Ramon Sessions has more than shown and proved, finally working himself into Mike Brown's starting package, playing minutes that right now Jordan Hill could only dream of (let's make it a reality, otherwise what did they give up Fish for). After some struggles and Lamar Odom departing and Dwight Howard never arriving troubles the new scheduled Lake Show is flying again, right into contention. With All-Star beast Andrew Bynum at the centre of things, Spanish superstar Pau Gasol powering the other forward spot, along with defensive war machine Metta World Peace at the three and now Sessions on court at the point the Lakers have a true, natural, top player at every position. Class really is in session. Wait...we're forgetting someone.

In this clash of the titans, don't forget the wrath of a basketball God. Written off Kobe Bryant has responded signed, sealed and delivered with wonder. The still venomous Mamba leads this fantastic five with the pride of a lion and the hunger throughout these games to be the last man standing in this superstar NBA race. Time to marvel at the stark changes of the NBA's iron man and his weapons. Avengers assemble. Those who quickly wrote off the Lakers are rushing to catch the back of the Buss family bandwagon once again.

Now how long will it be before these people label Kobe and Ramon as one of the best backcourts in the association? Not long! Kobes still the best until he hangs up his sneakers next to that face mask, while Sessions is climbing the snakes and ladders games of top points. Right now people are saying he's in the top 15, next season he could be in the top ten as well as an all star. Back in Kobe's previous backcourts he's been mentored by Chicago great and Jordan favourite Ron Harper, clutched at a draft to Oklahoma town trade career friendship with Derek Fisher and even spent some time wearing the gloves with Hall of Famer Gary Payton. Still nothing right now compares to this current level of excitement. Others have had there time to play, now its the Ramon sessions.

The dynamic duo, backcourt in downtown LA are just that good and they'll both make each other that much better. With a frontline that can go toe to toe with the best bigs, the Lakers big time small players, have got the frontcourts back. Now the purple and gold aren't just a frontcourt force, they can pick and roll their way to success to. With the worlds most famous basketball player and currently the most exciting one, the Lakers have two guards of a high profile that can watch the throne. Reigning champions and Laker sweepers Dallas where handed their own brooms last week and in this much hyped battle of Los Angeles, as of late the Lakers are coming out on top of the Clippers standing proud in the Pacific. Number 24 and number 7 can run this city every hour of every day. Call it what you like 24/7, 24/Sessions. Its a new day and a new nickname now. Over the next few weeks and months the Lakers will still rise saying goodnight to the opposition. It was all bad just a week ago, now its a brand new day.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Spanish Superstar.


There's nothing quite like job security.

There's nothing quite like loving what you do—there's nothing quite like passion.

That's one trait that can't be denied about Lakers forward Pau Gasol. Sure critics labelled him soft, but his hard work and play sure shed that label. Uncertainty surrounded Marc Gasol's older brother this season as for most of this year-until the trade deadline-Pau was dangled as bait for everyone from Dwight Howard to Rajon Rondo, but since the March mark has passed one things clear...

Pau Gasol is a Los Angeles Laker.

What a proud member of purple and gold he is too. You don't need to see his Youtube video to prove that. Pau Gasol may have been written off by all sorts of people from critics to those claiming to be fans, but this Spanish superstar is a bull, going against all the b.s. and proving he's strong enough to rise and play great above it all, even when doubt and insecurity was put in his way.

This man battled through his toughest adversities like when he returned to play with a hard-worked revenge over Kevin Garnett as his Lakers beat their storied rivals the Boston Celtics in 2010. They came back strong then and so did their No. 16, like they are finally doing now in this doubt-filled, post-Dallas-sweep regular season.

Remember when Pau's intensity saw red and he stared down and glared with those evil, eagle eyes after his clutch layup against the Magic in the 2009 Finals? That truly was magical. Even Earvin Johnson was impressed with this pure postseason play. There was passion behind those pupils. We can all learn from this paint schooling on Orlando by Gasol.

Sure Kobe's the man, new kid on the block Ramon Sessions is the new "man" and Andrew Bynum's the next great Laker big man, but Pau Gasol puts the "power" in "Power Forward." He is the Los Angeles Lakers' passion. His intensity fuels them. Just call him Pau Gasoline.

Now with his job secure in these uncertain postseason times to come you can be sure Pau Gasol will put aside the personal problems of last year and the effect it had on his play by showing up this playoff year. From going hard in the paint to displaying that beautiful finesse that critics confused as a soft trait, Gasol will be a matchup nightmare.

Especially when the opposition disregard him like critics. With Kobe and now Bynum drawing double teams in the paint and Sessions showing he really is a true point and quarterback for this team, Gasol will be free to hit the open shot, cut for a free look on the lay-up line, or clean up the garbage around the wastebasket rim. With World Peace also providing strength off the ball, Gasol will be able to roam the trenches with more freedom as he goes to war in the paint.

Don't write him or his team off just yet...Pau Gasol and his LA Lakers are really getting it together.

Speaking of double teams. After last years ejections and inconsistencies, it looked like everyone in Lakerland was willing to ship Bynum and Gasol off to Disneyworld for Dwight Howard. Everyone should now breathe a sigh of relief that didn't happen. Dwight's great but when Bynum and Gasol double team's over.

Plus, Gasol and Bynum are the kind of guys that command their own two-player markings and you sure can't double team both them and leave the Lakers new point and of course the one and only Kobe open. Two heads are better than one and this frontcourt tandem is among the best in the league, forming another real big three with Kobe and a great team with Ramon, Metta and the rest of the Hollywood stars.

Now that the Lakers have Sessions on court, they don't need Rajon Rondo, especially with the extra dimension of passion and play that Gasol gives them in the paint. The only way this frontcourt could be better right now is if former Laker favourite Lamar Odom was back (which a lot of people want) then the Lakers would have a big three on their frontline.

Still even with old friends like Odom and Derek Fisher gone, Kobe and the rest of the Lake Show will be rest assured and happy that Pau Gasol is going nowhere for now and what should be ever. Kobe's got his European brothers back and from the front office to the newspaper headlines nobody can deny that this love will be reciprocated and this trust earned.

Besides those who hate should show a little more heart. If it wasn't for Pau (and in some ways his brother Marc who was involved in the trade—now how good would it be if these family members where playing in the same frontcourt?), the Lakers would have never won those championships. Even with Kobe, Fisher, Bynum and Odom—it was Gasol that helped these purple and gold Gladiator's win the fight for championship survival. Instead of screaming for his head, fans should have been cheering "Spaniard, Spaniard."

What more do people want? Are they not entertained? When it comes to this battle of basketball, everyone has their airballs, off-days and bad plays, but you can be sure that this No. 16 is not sweet. He always gives his effort and his commitment, no matter who or what stands in his way.

All the negativity, doubt, talk, trade-threats and adversity are just going to fuel Gasol again as he and his team look to write-off all the critics with their own signature season. Sure this team is a long way from engraving another Larry O'Brien trophy, but Naismith knows Pau Gasol is a pure basketball player ready to ignite in his second season once again.

One of the best European players of all-time and a future Hall Of Famer has a legacy that will last beyond the old stories. It's a new day and season, and before challenging Team USA for the Gold In London, Pau's going to show just how much he can help one of the United States' best teams become world champions.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Seventh Heaven.


Kobe always gets his man and the Lakers have finally made their point. Sure a David Stern nixed Chris Paul trade this preseason still resembles a taste of something bitter in Laker fans mouths. Besides the cancelled trade deemed "unfair" left the Lakers in a state of despair and disrepair as Lamar Odom took his hurt feeling to Dallas for nothing and gutted the Lakers depth and spread of the floor. Coincidentally Lamar wants back, but won't be brought out by Dallas and couldn't resign with the Lake Show like he and Kobe would like. Coincidentally also CP3 ended up at L.A. anyway but for the rejuvenated, Blake Griffin led Clippers. A team that's taking the battle for L.A. supremacy to the STAPLES Centre floor in an effort to claim it as their own..."unfair" indeed.

It's clear the Lakers needed a fresh start to meet the trade deadline. The dangling of the Dwight Howard carrot had gotten real old the month before last and many Laker die-hards knew a Rajon Rondo move was too good or "Celtic" to be true. Still despite the talents of veteran Steve Blake and rookie Darius Morris the Lakers needed a fresh changing of the guard and they've got that now in Ramon Sessions.

Many analysts and fans alike are praising what some term as the Lakers first real point since...well Magic Johnson's return in 1996. Then again Earvin wasn't up to his old tricks then and the Lakers had the talented Nick Van Exel running the quick guard spot. Also these fans forget the Lakers had a future famer for one term in the Hollywood hall with Gary Payton. Plus all due respect must be given to clutch king and playoff legend Derek Fisher. He was a real guard and a real threat. Some may have not considered him a real Point Guard but he was a real player. Besides the reality is without him the Lakers wouldn't have had a real chance at winning all those championships. The number 2 should be retired in "the Fish that saved L.A.'s" honor...period.

It's a shame that the collective bargaining agreement that player association president Fisher helped develop means that Derek couldn't return to the Laker yet anyway to come off the bench and shoot teams down despite Houston's buyout. The problem is LeBron and the Miami Heat may be waiting for the Lakers legend at airports again. Like Odom a fond member of the Lakers family will only be part of the photo albums now. Still it's time for a different take.

The Lakers current Point Guard and number 7 is Ramon Sessions. The future of this ballclub. 7 points and 5 assists in a rousing 19 minute debut showed that Ramon was legit and you can expect more from his sessions on court soon. Laker favourite Luke Walton and three-point gun for hire Jason Kapono where worth giving up for this money player. Ramon Sessions sees it as a "dream come true" to be donning gold and purple, while Laker legend Kobe is getting over losing his career best-friend Fisher by praising Ramon's "crafty" play and high basketball I.Q. It sure does sound like the troubled Lakers are making a new point and case for themselves. Happy days are coming back to Hollywood and Ramon Sessions is sitting on it.

The only reason Sessions didn't break out to an even bigger star in Cleveland, whilst showing everyone more of the potential and promise that he was poised to show is because he shared a backcourt with sure-thing 'Rookie Of The Year' Kyle Irving. Still Ramon has shined and even in the same backcourt as the greatest ever not named "Mike", Sess' looks to gleam even more in the gold Hollywood shine of the celebrity laden L.A. fan base. Ramon's career high of 44 points and last seasons career-leading 13.3 point average proves he can score but his career 4.8 assists and his career dime-high of 24 shows he's a real P.G. too. His steals and rebounding performances also show he's an all-round player.

An all-round player who can join Kobe, the trade-safe Pau Gasol, the Dwight Howard rivalling and ascending Andrew Bynum and the defensive star Metta World Peace to give the Lakers a new famous five that can keep up with the rest of the celebrity ballclubs in the league. Plus with Blake, Barnes, new boys Jordan Hill, Christian Eyenga and Troy Murphy and many more this triple-double player can help triple the chances and future investments of a team more known for making three-peats than third seeds in the playoffs. Sure right now the Lakers are a long way from the team they where a season back, but this and next season are looking better. The Lakers wont have to follow the leader for much longer with their new floor general taking them up the ranks. This years been hard but it's a new day and game now and the Ramon season is in session.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Now how about this for some face time?

Forget father time. The young All-Star's tried to knock veteran legend Kobe Bryant down, concuss him and break his nose yet he still came back with avengance. Strapping on the Rip Hamilton face mask and showing the cities of America that his great game was far from R.I.P. Looking deadly in the M.F. Doom, phantom mask. The Mamba has recently become even more of a menace to the rest of the NBA.

Just call him 'The Phantom Menace'.

In these star wars in this basketball league Obi Wan Kobe is cutting through opponents like he had two Lightsabres. The superhero of the NBA really has looked the part. Just wait until someone comes out with an action figure, or comic-book for Bean's escapades. Robert Rodriguez may have to film another commercial. Are Kanye and Bruce busy?

Probably because right now everyone is watching the Doberman snarl and battle through the pain and "sauna" like heat of the face-mask that Bulls guard Hamilton may wear for caution and luck, but Kobe can't wait to get rid of.

Still it's making his drive and overall game that much more insane. Crazy with a 'V' for vendetta, he's leaving his mark like Zorro, like LeBron seasons before him. They've super-imposed Kobe's face over Gerard Butler, as the man leads his troubled Laker team with the strength of 300 hundred men, silencing the opposition like lambs with a Hannibal Lecter killer instinct. Even switching to the black mask, to show he really is the lone-ranger out in the Wild West.

Even after Miami Heat great Dwyane Wade tried to cool Kobe down with a hard, blood-letting foul at All-Star, the All-Legend Bryant then surpassed the greatest ever Michael Jordan in All-Star points, as his 20 after regulation gave him a mid-February total of 264. The man may have been written off this year but he really belongs in the company of the best.

Following this the Masked Mamba posted his third straight 30 point game as he and his Lake Show exacted revenge over a fouled out Wade and his Miami team with a 93-83 win in L.A. Which was a true Hollywood story for this superhero avenger. Now that really is something to marvel at. Sure 'The Dark Knight' of the Los Angeles Lakers may have fallen in D.C. and Detroit but this hot Heat beating was a major chess move as Kobe and his board took down LeBron's men. King exposed...checkmate.

No rivals least for now. Kobe stung the Hornets last night with 33 points, said thank you very much to Memphis with 34 and had another winning game with 26 against storied rivals Boston. The man's making more history, even the Lakes old home in Minneapolis saw a 30 plus pouring. What a great tale this is to tell.

This has become one interesting side-story. It's more than just a trend on Twitter. Even Chris Paul is following suit in Clipperland (OK he is injured too). Sure just like we have no idea what's going on with trades in Lakerland, we have little clue to when Kobe will reveal himself from behind the mask, but what we do know is that behind a disguise or not the real, heroic Kobe will always come to light and it's looking to be even more unpredictably legendary by the game.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


The God's of Basketball.


It's a Sexy Match up”. -Kobe Bryant

We Never Take These Moments for Granted”.-Paul Pierce

So Dallas and Miami may have taken care of the NBA's two most famous franchises last season and created a new match-up for a new generation, but one thing they can't take from the Boston Celtics and the L.A. Lakers is their tradition and legacy. Back in 2008 the Lakers and Celtics took over half a century of storied rivalry and got it back on for two finals over three years. This was the big ticket like Kevin Garnett, starring two teams who took two 'chips out of each other. Even today some may call it boring but isn't this the match up everybody wants to see? Well… kind of.

Look back to 2008 and this match up of the moment. The Lakers and the Celtics, two of the associations most recognizable and storied franchises. Two powerhouses, evenly matched and going at it game after game. There was no David in this story, just two Goliaths’. The anticipation was mouth watering; however over the last couple of years one match-up has rivalled the instant vintage of a Lakers, Celtics classic. This is the potential head to head match up between Kobe Bryant and the other best player in the league; LeBron James. This is what everyone expected to see this June. The leagues two best all-round players, recent MVP's and dual ‘SLAM Presents’ cover stars duking it out. In the blue corner, Kobe, the best since M.J., holding more in experience, skill and accomplishment. In the red corner, LeBron, the present and future, the all-round player and phenom. A player who has already accomplished so much and is set to achieve so much more. After all the hype however alas there were no final games scheduled in STAPLES last year, neither were there any 'Most Valuable Puppets' final commercials airing. The ultimate, winner takes all battle for the best player in the NBA again has had to wait.

One thing us die-hard NBA fans can't wait for is another Lakers/Celtics bout. The Celtics took the Lakers in 2008, but two years and a L.A. championship against Orlando later in 2010 Kobe Bryant had the chance to claim his status as the greatest in the NBA. Back then before he had his chance to beat the best player in the league he had to win it all against the best team. The history speaks for itself. Boston have 17 titles to L.A.'s 15. They’ve beaten the Lakers 9 times in the finals. L.A. had beaten Boston twice, but the third time was the charm. Historically there was so much more to prove in 2010. This then all changed as Kobe and the Lakers took it within one game of tieing the all-time series, imagine if they could do it again. Boston did not beat L.A. for a tenth time, history will all come down to the next match-up. Now who wants to see that.

Statistically and mentally speaking Boston have the upper hand, they were a sprinkle of talcum powder away from slapping the Lakers hard with this fact, until the boys from Hollywood took their hands and rewrote history's script. The Lakers have suffered many a heartbreak by Boston only to be left green with Celtic envy at what they've achieved in relation to their rivals, but things are looking more evenly matched these days. The Lakers have endured it all, from celebratory balloons falling on an empty, solemn, Forum court to Kobe Bryant sombrely walking off the Celtics parquet floor in 2008 with green & white ticker tape falling around him. It's moments like that when all a beaten opponent can do is keep their head down, staring at the famous wood that has been the bane of many opposing teams postseason lives. Kobe's long walk was similar to Magic's walk off the Forum floor when Jordan and the Bulls stopped the ‘Show’ before it's time at the start of the 90’s. These so called 'walks of shame' may be an NBA players lowest moment but if you look deeper than that it's also the moment a competitor like Kobe or Magic renew their focus and regroup. A focus that then turns a walking Kobe into a jubilant running and jumping champion in the 2010 rematch that took the game, set and, match advantage back to L.A.'s court.

Before that however in 2009-one year removed from losing on his rival’s court-Kobe was jumping up and down in jubilation on another opposing team’s floor. Reclaiming the championship after seven, long, Shaq-less years against Orlando was real sweet, but like Nas ‘It Aint Hard to Tell’ that Kobe was still troubled by the Boston loss in '08. As were the rest of the Lake show. It's almost felt like the defending champions wouldn't really feel like they’ve reclaimed their crown fully unless they took it off the team that took it off them last. That's the real 'chip on the Lakers shoulder. Sure the Magic were ans still are an enthralling team but fans were craving ‘Lakers, Celtics 2’. The sequel that everyone really wanted to see. It's like when Muhammad Ali heard the infamous Howard Cossell commentary, 'Down goes Fraizer, DOWN GOES FRAIZER!' Ali knew that even though he would end up the champ, there would still be a score left to settle that would have to wait. This was the same for the Lakers after they won in 2009. Their time to really win was in 2010 and boy did they.

The Celtics had something to prove as well. They needed to prove that their first championship was not merely a one off. In the same year the Lakers cast a spell on the Magic, the Celtics had no tricks left in their bag as they fell in the playoffs much earlier than expected. Their defence of their championship left a lot to be desired. They displayed more the age of a veteran than the heart of a champion. Also, the Celtics still wanted to be considered as the best team in the league, so they needed to show everyone that they could beat a Laker team that battle-tested from previous losses had now won a championship. The Lakers had the advantage there but the Celtics wanted to show the league that it wasn't happening in their house. Whichever team would win this series would start to make their stamp on establishing their own dynasty in this league.

Sure watching 'The Mamba' and 'The King' go at it for seven games would of made some classic NBA playoff moments. Two evenly matched players with similar games, guarding each other and going basket for basket, dunk for dunk. That would of been something special, but that didn't mean that the Celtics/Lakers series of the second decade of the new millennium wasn't any less special. The Lakers, Celtics rivalry has resulted in many defining moments in NBA history and this series undoubtedly added more memories to the vault and more fuel to the fire of this traditional, heated rivalry.

It's not just the fans that wanted it. Both teams relish this match-up too. Phil Jackson expressed to Paul Pierce in the 2009 off-season how he wanted him to lead his Celtics back to the finals again so they could face off again, he got his wish a year before his retirement as well as his 10Th ring. It was the match-up to see who really was the real champion. In 2010 both teams were better than they were the last time they met in '08. They both had a championship under their belt, they were both seasoned and closer as units and they both were dominant to the point were it looked too easy for them. Think about it both teams at times managed to coast through the season and playoffs in what looked like second gear. Now as both teams were back were they wanted to be. It was time for both teams to take one, hard stare at each other, then put the foot down.

Boy did they put their foot down too. Both teams went at it for the full seven games, taking blood, sweat, tears and years off, not to mention each others home-court advantage. There was nothing between these two greats in this epic series, except a hard-fought ugly game 7 which showed just how competitive and beautiful this game really is. From the eccentricities of Ron Artest and Rasheed Wallace to the smooth flowing games of Lamar Odom and Ray Allen and K.G.'s growls to Gasol's stares and Pierce's passion to Kobe's never say die attitude everyone brought their A game, for a first-grade series to report on. The 2010 NBA Finals went down as one of the best moments to register in basketball history. Now who wants to see these two hall Of Fame teams do it again?

Sure Boston's window may be getting smaller as their team is getting older but trust they are more wiser too. Plus the fourth Beatle of Rajon Rondo has taken this big-three up a notch with a breath of young fresh air, which should keep the window of opportunity open for longer, unless he performs a backwards P-Double and comes to California. Now the Lakers may have been embarrassed and dismantled by last years champion Dallas, but this is no part two to the 'death of a dynasty' that critics are calling time on. Phil Jackson may be gone, but the best player in the league today and the second best of all time is here with, Bynum the beast and trade bait for only Dwight Howard. Going along with the best European player Pau Gasol (deadline pending) and their Hollywood squad. Showtime is still very much on, and Celtic pride is also still headstrong.

It's all about the two greatest franchise in league history. The tension. The rivalry. Bird and Kareem squaring off. Wilt and Russell going at it. Offence versus defence. Showtime versus hard work. It's about Magic’s baby hook. It's about Celtic fans rushing the floor as soon as the buzzer sounds. It's the rings on Bill Russell’s fingers compared to the frustration on Jerry West's face. It's the Forum and the Garden. It's the fans. The celebrities turning up in Los Angeles to add shine and the regular folks in Boston driving around the Lakers hotel room at 3am, keeping the players awake all night.

It’s Los Angeles versus Boston. Hollywood versus blue collar. ‘Beat L.A.’ versus a ‘Boston Massacre’. It's all about Kobe or Pierce. Gasol or Garnett. It's all about players like Bynum and Fisher or Allen and Rondo. Guys all over the floor who can make an impact and difference and change the tone of a series. It's about two acclaimed teams stacked from 1-15. Bench for bench. Burn for burn. It's two foes going at it. Possession for possession. Play for play. Bucket for bucket. Game for game. It's all about the Larry O'Brien trophy. It's all about now. Sure this rivalry took a year off but you must believe these two teams will be back to do battle with each other once again. In NBA history they always come back, they always do. These two teams are married to each other for better or worse in a matrimony of history, legacy and tradition. Divorce yourself from last year and engage yourself with their partnership because your cordially invited to the next ceremony between the masters.

Today thy play it out...LET'S GET IT ON!

Monday, March 5, 2012


Would you?

By Tim David Harvey Let's take a look back at the NBA's lock-down iron-fist post lockout.

The Los Angeles Lakers were supposed to cool off the Miami Heat with their own Big Three this offseason.

They were supposed to acquire both Dwight Howard and Chris Paul for a few pieces in order to lasso the Dallas Mavericks and take revenge for the champion’s knockout sweep of them this past playoffs, while taking back Larry O'Brien.

Then David Stern happened.

Then a nixed CP3 trade happened as the commissioner wanted to keep the New Orleans Hornets together. Still, Chris Paul ended up heading to Los Angeles and the STAPLES Centre anyway—for the Los Angeles Clippers?

Then the rumor mill was whirling with news that Dwight Howard was still going to be traded—but to the New Jersey Nets?

If that wasn't bad enough, the Lakers/New Orleans trade may have been blocked, but you can't take back hurt feelings, and an offended Lamar Odom demanded a move. So the Lakers sent their most versatile player and threat to the team that swept them and their biggest new rival, the Dallas Mavericks? For practically nothing? Now the Lakers are left with a depleted, disgruntled front line featuring trade bait Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum (who are still incredible players, but probably can't help but feel little loyalty), some out of shape World Peace, no real point guard, and according to some critics no real chance. Now If that wasn't enough, remember that Phil Jackson and his Zen are somewhere between Montana and some previous rumors of New York.

Still, I wouldn't bet against Kobe Bryant.

I wouldn't bet against the greatest player in the league and the greatest player ever not named Michael. Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant can still wait like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, for Kobe is still the player to beat. Until he unlaces them, Kobe will run this basketball game from a player perspective. You can't retire that.He is still that good. Sure, he's older, but he's nowhere near done. He's nowhere near M.J.'s level, but he's also nowhere near Floor Jordan's level when he was at the Washington Wizards—and Mike was still schooling cats then. Kobe's got his hops back, his killer-instinct is still intact and as for that Maverick sweep? No. 24 is out for revenge. Kobe's walked off opposing teams' floors before, head-down, looking purple with opposing-team colored ticker-tape falling down in someone else's celebration. They said he was done back then in Boston, but then he made twice as nice on some championship rings sans Shaq. No wonder O'Neal calls him the greatest Laker ever.

Back when they played together, Shaq called Kobe his idol. Hate it or love it, Bryant is still the poster boy of the NBA. He hasn't just built walls—he's knocked them down. Only Jordan in his prime has Kobe's skill, will or killer instinct. At the end of the game, two down with two on the clock, who else do you want to have the ball (apart from Derek Fisher behind the arc, of course)? It's no contest. If there's a way to win, Kobe will find it. This season has been one of the hardest for the Black Mamba, but he's still got venom. This has been one of his best seasons overall with everything considering. They tried to knock him down...literally. The All-Star took all pain and no love after mid-February at the post-Valentine's break. One broken nose, one concussion and one Rip Hamilton mask later and Kobe's still dropping 31 and playing and dunking hard and with a Afro like youth. Showing the STAPLES fans and the city that his play is far from R.I.P. Welcome to Los Angeles. Lob Angeles doesn't run California yet.

This is personal.

Its got nothing to do with the sad news of his divorce (that's his private life—respect that). Its got nothing to do with the endorsements, hyperdunks, critics, lockout, all the talk, blogs and bull that comes with the great hype and buildup of the world’s greatest league. It's to do with how the game has played out and by the end who has put the ball in the basket more times. At the end of it all, after it's all said and done, whom else do we need to talk about?

That's Kobe's bread and butter. That's Kobe's job. That's Kobe's forte. That's Kobe. That's all you need to know.

I wouldn't bet against Kobe Bryant—would you?