KOBE’S 6 GAME WINNERS IN ’09/’10 – propelling the Lakers to the 1st seed (instead of the 6th)

KOBE’S 6 GAME WINNERS IN ’09/’10 – propelling the Lakers to the 1st seed (instead of the 6th)

Kobe’s 09-10 NBA season was capped off with him winning his fifth NBA championship. It was the last time Mamba lifted the Larry O’Brien, putting an end to the whole “he can’t win without Shaq” notion. What made his path somewhat easier is the fact that throughout the whole Western Conference Playoffs, they had home-court advantage.

The Lakers finished the regular-season with conference-high 57 wins. Six of those wins came after Kobe hit a game-winning shot. If Bryant doesn’t make those six shots, they fall to the sixth seed and play the Suns instead of the Thunder, and the whole thing could’ve had a different ending.

Instead, Kobe’s game-winning shots propelled them to the 1st seed, and they went on to win the championship. Here are those six shots.

Sidenote – 190 NBA players were surveyed by Sports Illustrated back in 2010 about which player they would want to take the last shot. 76% of them voted Kobe. Let’s see why they were right.

Lakers 108 – Heat 107, Dec 5, 2009

The Heat were up one with 3.2 left on the clock after Wade split the free-throws. Ron Artest was inbounding the ball, as the Lakers gathered around the free-throw line and were about to run a play that would get Kobe open. Haslem was on Artest, and doubled Bryant, making it hard for him to get the ball.

Kobe received the ball with his back to the basket, took three dribbles, jumped off the left foot, and banked in the three with Dwyane Wade all over him. The Staples Center erupted as the Lakers stole the game that had 17 lead changes.

Kobe finished the game with 33 points on .480, and was very efficient from the free-throw line, hitting seven of his eight attempts. His defensive assignment Dwyane Wade, had himself an inefficient 26 points night, as the two battled the whole game on both ends of the floor.

It was an epic clash between 3 and 24 that went in Kobe’s favor following his incredible bank shot. I wonder if he called it.

Lakers 107 – Bucks 106, Dec 16, 2009

Just eleven days after he took down the Heat, Bryant hit another game-winner, this time against the Bucks.

Kobe had a chance to win the game in regulation but missed a 16-foot jumper with two seconds left on the clock. He got his chance again at the end of the first overtime, and this time he took it.

He first converted a three-point play with 48 seconds left, bringing his team within one. After missed shots by Luke Ridnour and Michael Redd, World-Peace got the rebound, and Phil Jackson called a 20-second timeout. With 5.4 left on the clock, Lamar Odom inbounded the ball to Kobe.

Bryant, being defended by Charlie Ball, dribbled the ball to his sweet-spot, shoulder faked, and hit a 15 ft fade-away jumper with the sound of the buzzer. Kobe put his hands up, showing a very little surprise that the ball went in. He knew he had it.

It was his 39th point that night, as he completely obliterated the Bucks. They had no answer for Mamba, and just when they taught they were going to get away with it, Kobe hit his signature fade-away jumper and crushed their dreams. It was his second game-winner in a span of 11 days, but he was far from done.

Lakers 109 – Kings 108, Jan 1, 2010

Bryant had the best entry into the new year, as he hit another walk-off jumper against the Kings.

Their win vs. Sacramento was the epitome of stealing the game, as the Lakers had the lead for only 3:39 throughout 48 minutes. At one point, they were down 20, and it seemed like the Californian matchup will go in favor of the Kings.

That’s when the Kobe show started. He dropped 16 in the 3rd quarter and got his team back in the game. The Lakers took the lead with 5:13 left in the fourth, the first time the first quarter when they were up 10-8. The last five minutes were marked with constant lead changes, and the Kings were in a far better position after Beno Udrih got them the lead with 28 seconds left. Or so they taught.

After Ime Udoka missed both free-throws, Gasol got the rebound, and the Lakers called timeout. They once again ran a play for Bean. Sasha Vujačić inbounded the ball to Gasol, Kobe set the back screen (with a slight shove) for Sasha, and got open in the corner. You all know how it ended.

If you look closely at the video of the shot, you can see Kings’ coach Paul Westphal standing still with his arms crossed. When Kobe got the ball, you can see Westphal checking if his feet were behind the line. It was their only chance of winning. Everybody in that building knew the ball was going in.

Kobe once again dropped 39 and led his team to an incredible comeback, and he still wasn’t done.

Lakers 90 – Celtics 89, Jan 31, 2010

This is just my assumption, but I bet Bryant’s game-winner vs. The Celtics was his favorite that season, solely because it was against his rivals, in their building, in front of their fans.

It happened 30 days after his shot vs. the Kings. And no, Kobe didn’t drop 39. It was a low scoring game, and Kobe was no exception. He only scored 19, and he took 20 shots to do so. It wasn’t the display of efficient scoring, but it ended up being another display of Kobe delivering in the clutch.

Boston led for the most of the game, but the Lakers were able to hold on, not letting the game out of their reach. Metta World-Peace played a huge part in their late comeback, as he first hit a 4ft jumper to bring his team within one. He then drew an offensive foul on Paul Pierce and had set a stage for Kobe to take over.

With 7 seconds left on the game clock, Black Mamba sank a go-ahead fallaway jumper to lead his team 90-89 victory over the Celtics, their sixth loss in eight games. How Kobe hit the shot, beats me. Ray Allen was all over him. The whole possession was scuffed, and it seemed Kobe settled for a difficult jumper. But he drained it. I don’t know how, but he did.

Boston had the chance to win the game, but Ray Allen’s three-point attempt was off. The Lakers once again stole the game.

Lakers 99 – Grizzlies 98, Feb 23, 2010

As much as Kobe’s night in the Garden was an inefficient one, the same can’t be said for his performance at the FedEx Forum three weeks later. Bryant led all players in scoring with 32, and he did it only on 19 shots, hitting 13 of them. Bean was also 3-for-4 from downtown, grabbed seven rebounds, and dished out six assists for a great all-around performance.

But you know that isn’t the reason this game is on the list. It’s because of what happened with 4.3 seconds left on the clock. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It was about what Kobe did in the last 2:22 minutes of the ball-game. Bryant was the only Laker to score the ball, as he was responsible for the team’s final nine points.

Bryant’s game-winner came off an inbounds play just 4 seconds after his layup attempt was blocked by Rudy Gay. Gay was the one guarding Kobe on the inbound play but couldn’t do anything about it. Bean came off Pau Gasol’s screen and swooshed a shot from 26 ft. O.J. Mayo missed a shot on the other end, making Kobe a hero for the fifth time in that season.

Lakers 109 – Raptors 107, Mar 9, 2010

Kobe’s final game-winning shot of the 2009-10 NBA season was against the Raptors. I don’t know what was up with Kobe and the team from up north, but they once again felt the wrath of the Black Mamba.

The Lakers were on a two-game losing streak and were looking to snap their losing streak against Toronto. It was a close game throughout all 48 minutes, and it came down to a few last possessions of the game. Chris Bosh tied the game at 107, causing the Lakers to call a timeout. With 9.5 left on the clock, they got the ball to Kobe, who was guarded by Antoine Wright.

Andrea Bargnani brought the double team right away, forcing Kobe to the baseline. After two dribbles, Bryant went for a fallaway jumper over two guys. The ball didn’t even hit the rim, and the Lakers won the game by two, snapping their losing streak.

Kobe had an efficient 32 points night, and once again delivered when it mattered the most, just like countless times that season. Well, six, to be exact. Not a bad number for single-season game-winners.