Lakers and Pistons: What Makes Vintage Kobe Different

“04,” answered Kobe Bryant when asked what motivates him to be so good, particularly against the Detroit Pistons, during the postgame interview following the L.A. Lakers’ 103-90 win.

It seems like the embarrassing 4-1 loss to the Pistons in 2004 NBA Finals is still in the back of his mind. After all, this is the team that forced the breakup of what was a dynasty in the earlier half of last decade.

A year later, the Lakers missed the playoffs for the first time in 11 years. So, in essence, it’s not hard to understand Kobe’s grudge when he walks into the Palace of Auburn Hills, an arena that left a significant dent in his career.

But surely, the Pistons are no longer the same team that drubbed the Lakers in the Finals six years ago and they won’t even come close to challenging for a title any time soon. So, it certainly doesn’t come as a surprise that the rest of the Lakers were on cruise control throughout the game en route to their blow-out win over the Pistons.

But Kobe was not, posting 33 points on 11-of-20 shooting.

Seeing a player of Kobe’s magnitude score 33 points against the pathetic Pistons team without Richard Hamilton shouldn’t come as a surprise either, especially considering the number of players in today’s NBA who seem to be able to score at will against mediocre ball clubs.

However, Kobe’s 33 points were different, because he didn’t just score those points, he created them—everything about his performance, from how he twisted and turned his way to the basket to his ever so fundamentally sound footwork, created unique and yet perfect shooting angles to his silky smooth outside shots.

Scorers in the NBA might be common, but Kobe’s scoring on this vintage night surely isn’t. There were no slam dunks that brought the house down nor any astonishing athleticism in his scoring patterns ei...

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