By Steve Holt, Opinion Editor
Love him or hate him, Kobe Bryant is the bomb diggity.
I mean, is this guy for real? Let’s ask everyone’s favorite 7-6 center, Yao Ming.
Translation: “You bet! Did you see me get my face dunked on Tuesday night?”
Kobe poured 52 on the Rockets Tuesday night, despite having a gimpy knee. And Wednesday’s 40-point effort against Utah was the guard’s 11th straight game scoring over 35 points, and the seventh straight over 40. The “give-me-the-ball-now-I’m-carrying-this-team-to-the-playoffs” performances put Kobe in elite company: he has the fifth longest streak of 40 points or more, behind Wilt and Michael.
And Bryant looked a lot like “His Airness” Tuesday and Wednesday nights, hitting seemingly impossible shots we haven’t seen since (dare I say it) MJ’s glory days. While Bryant has a long way before he can jump into the basketball throne next to Cham-berlain and Michael, he’s already got both of them beat in a key area: dunking.
Adding 15 pounds of twisted steel to his previously wiry frame and focusing on his flexibility and vertical leap, Bryant has littered the highlight reels with more NBA Jam-esque dunks than ever before this season. Before posterizing Yao Ming Tuesday night, Kobe abused Latrell Sprewell, Tim Duncan, Arvydas Sabonis and Jason Kidd already this season. Those five form a pretty good little all-star team.
You’ve been Kobied…next, please.
Number eight’s biggest critics throw around words like “ball-hog” and “selfish,” but these descriptions are only true when the game is on the line. Hey, Mike wanted the ball when it counted. While Kobe’s points-per-game average has shot up to over 30, his assists-per-game has increased proportionally. As of Wednesday, Bryant was averaging 6.5 dimes a game, over two more than his career average.
So call him cocky. Say he should give up the ball more. Even criticize his endorsements and confident smirk.
But never, ever say Kobe Bryant isn’t a great player, one of the league’s best. Because to this point, no barriers have come between No. 8 and success-just ask Yao Ming.