With Bryant struggling to find his shot and the Lakers down as many as 13 during the third quarter, Artest stepped up, providing a much-needed spark for the purple and gold. He put up his best performance of the series — 20 points, 5 rebounds, 5 steals, and 1 assist — capping it off with a decisive three-pointer to put the Lakers up 6 with a minute left on the clock, after the pass from No. 24.
Kudos to Kobe for giving the ball to Artest — that was without the doubt the right basketball player. But Bryant hasn’t always been the guy to focus on making the right play in the clutch. Most often than not, he would take the shot by himself and live with the results. Especially in between playing with Shaq and trying to prove he could win without him when Kobe trusted none of his teammates to do that for him.
Kobe explained to Phil Handy why he didn’t pass the ball to certain players…Mamba Mentality. 🙏🐍— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) June 19, 2021
Kobe’s trust issues were justified, especially for a guy with his work ethic and approach to the game. However, Bryant trusted Artest on that last shot in Game 7 against the Celtics, despite the two getting off on the wrong foot sometime during the regular season.
One time, we were playing against the OKC and it was a last-second shot in the playoffs to go home. Steve Blake set a screen on Kobe, Steve went to the corner, Kobe had somebody on him and I gave it to Steve. Hit the shot Steve — he airballs it and Kobe’s about to choke me. I said, ‘hey, he’s wide open, what do you want me to do?‘ And he just kept walking.Metta World Peace, Club Shay Shay
A poor decision in one game didn’t overshadow everything Kobe was witnessing from Artest day in and day out. That’s why, when it mattered the most, he gave the ball to No. 37, trusting he would hit the shot to secure the organization’s 16th NBA championship.
He knows I put a lot of work in. Kobe’s in the gym early, I’m in the gym late. And that moment — just before that I was averaging 25, killing them the year before — he trusted me. In my mind, I want to win. I’m not thinking about anything else.Metta World Peace, Club Shay Shay
One jab step later, Artest drilled the biggest shot of his career, blowing a kiss to the frenzied crowd at the Staples. At that point, everyone knew it’s over. A few minutes later, as the final buzzer sounded, Kobe ran towards Artest, and the two started celebrating. At that point, they both felt relief.
That year, I was averaging 8 points and everybody in the media was like, ‘man, Metta World Peace, his career is almost over at 29 years old.’ How is my career almost over at 29 years old? I’m just in my prime. But I was playing with an amazing player at 29 and it was a great experience.Metta World Peace, Club Shay Shay
MJ had John Paxson and Steve Kerr. LeBron had Ray Allen. In fact, none of the all-time greats have won the title by themselves. They all had a role player who stepped up when it mattered the most. For Kobe, at least during his run without Shaq, that guy was Ron Artest.