Yahoo!: Jerry West has had a front-row seat to watch the evolution of Kobe Bryant: precocious teenager, three-time NBA champion, angry superstar and beloved MVP.
One of the game’s all-time greats himself, West can relate to some of what Bryant has experienced. And the man known as Mr. Clutch understands what separates Bryant from the rest.
“He’s a Picasso in basketball shoes, absolutely—one of those once-in-a-lifetime players,” West said. “Kobe is the ultimate closer in the game. In all sports you seem to have people who play at a high level when it’s important. You don’t see anyone do it like him today, you really don’t.”
Bryant was the ultimate closer last week when the Los Angeles Lakers beat San Antonio 100-92 to advance to their first NBA finals berth since 2004.
The Spurs scored five straight points to draw within two, prompting a Los Angeles timeout. Bryant then scored 10 of his 39 points in the final 3:32.
“I haven’t seen anyone better than him in that context, as a finisher,” said Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s career scoring leader and a Lakers assistant.
Bryant recalled some advice West once gave him.
“He said when the game is on the line, he feels like the shots are actually easier to make,” Bryant said. “It was interesting to hear him say that and try to understand how he views those clutch situations and how I can learn from that and try to be that way.”