Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bryant, Kick It Up a Notch at Playoff Time

Champions are noted for kicking their game up a notch as the competition intensifies and titles beckon on the horizon.

All too often experts and fans jump to early erroneous conclusions.  This is the case with the 2009-2010 edition of the L.A. Lakers.

The wily, smiling Phil Jackson was questioned by Craig Sager about why Kobe Bryant was not taking charge in the early stages of a first round playoff contest on the road against a talented young Oklahoma City team.

He explained that Bryant was supposed to be bringing the team more into the picture.  Nonetheless, rather than listening to a coach with 10 NBA championship rings, the second guessers wondered after the Lakers lost that game if Kobe might be over the hill.

Since Kobe Bryant at 31 is hardly pushing Medicare status, here was the argument:  Yes, he is not chronologically that old, but his body had worn down from all those energetically contested playoff games along with the Olympics and other international competitions.

Actually the counter to that argument is what is currently resonating.  Kobe is energized by stiff competition.  The challenge is the thing, and the greater the player the more applicable the axiom.

So Kobe led the charge as the Lakers took apart the young Thunder team at the Staples Center and then won a close one on the road to close out the series at 4-2.

Then there was the series against the Utah Jazz when the Lakers were booed by the home town fans.  The reason was that a big lead had been blown when the Jazz second unit got hot and outscored the Laker reserves, making it a close game.

Despite the fact that Kobe came back, assumed leadership reins, and guided the Lakers to victory, which the team then extended to a 4-0 sweep with two closeout wins at Salt Lake City, the doubters were back.  Some were almost assuredly among those who had earlier wondered if Kobe ...

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