DENVER -- One by one they have lined up to take what is rightfully his, and on this night, another one failed. This time, the victim was Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant's closest friend from the Olympic team and one of many teammates from Bejing who've taken direct aim at him.
On the court, Bryant was cold, calm and calculating. He did what he promised. He "cut 'em up." When he said those words on the Lakers' practice court Thursday, venom sprayed out of his mouth with them. "We have to be cold-blooded," Bryant had said.
When he is gone, whenever that is, the NBA will miss his cold-bloodedness. Be honest, so will you. There has to be a villain, and Bryant has played that role better than anyone since Michael Jordan. The way all the young stars are worshipped now -- and worship each other -- I can't imagine anyone ever matching Kobe's killer instinct, the sick way he enjoys dissecting and demoralizing an opponent this way.
"Number 24 had a great five minutes at the end of the game that no one in basketball could have covered him," Karl said. "He made about four shots in that stretch that I think Jesus would've had trouble covering him."
After resting nervously on the bench for the final 1:31 of the third -- chomping a wad of gum, licking his lips while the Lakers successfully protected a 15-point lead without him -- Bryant returned for the start of the fourth. It was his time, and nobody was going to deprive him of it. Before he walked onto the floor, Trevor Ariza pulled him aside and said this: "So everybody always says that the fourth quarter's your quarter. Now, I want to see it."
"He showed me what Kobe Bryant stands for," Ariza said, "and what he means."
Edited by Junayd, May 30, 2009 - 02:52 PM.