My recent experience of rewatching Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals was so much different than the first and only time I’d seen it before. It was the most stressful fan experience of my life and for years I told myself I never wanted to watch it again, even though I knew it all worked out in the end.
It’s the most storybook of all Lakers championships, with apologies to the 1984-85 team. One where Kobe Bryant fought through an awful shooting night and stood triumphantly on the scorer’s table as confetti rained down upon him. One where Pau Gasol made one clutch play after another while winning the physical battle against Kevin Garnett.
One where Lamar Odom changed the game in the third quarter with his Swiss Army knife versatility. One where Ron Artest kept the Lakers in the game in the first half and hit the game’s biggest shot. One where the Lakers avenged their 2008 defeat to the hated Boston Celtics in a comeback, Game 7 victory. It may as well be a Hollywood script written by a Lakers fan.
That happy reality obscured a much darker, alternative timeline that still makes my Laker soul shudder to this day. One where the Lakers don’t come back to win. One where the Boston Celtics celebrated their 18th championship on the Lakers’ home floor. One where Kevin Garnett’s bellow of “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!” would echo through a rapidly emptying Staples Center as David Stern presented Paul Pierce with his second Finals MVP award.
One where Kobe Bryant’s Game 7 performance was a prominent and permanent stain on his legacy. It may as well be a dystopian horror novel written by a Laker fan. Thankfully that scenario only resides in my nightmares, but as a Kobe apologist I’ve always wondered what in the world he was doing for the first three quarters of this game. Why he shot so poorly? How much did he contribute toward the victory in other aspects of the game? This is my attempt to answer those questions.
Kobe’s shot selection in the first half of this game was absolutely atrocious. Determining what was or wasn’t a good shot for Kobe was a particularly subjective task, considering that he’s arguably the greatest “bad” shotmaker in NBA history. His incomparably polished skills and innate belief in himself produced a lengthy highlight reel of nearly impossible shots throughout his career. But they also led to a lot of bad misses that are easy and convenient to forget.