It was a moment of dramatic theater though it wasn’t the greatest dunk of Kobe Byrant’s illustrious career. It was, though, the greatest dunk of Kobe’s post Achilles world. The unexpectedness of it- okay, let’s not front- the damn shock of him elevating on Clint Capela made your eyeballs roll back in your head and look again. He. Did. What?
The reaction was priceless. Dwight Howard, the Kobe nemesis, had a grin because it was Bryant’s dunk on Howard that christened Howard into the NBA a long time ago.
Howard said, “I already know what the headlines are going to say. They’re going to have a picture of me and a picture of Clint side by side and they’re going to say, ‘Kobe turns back the hands of time’. I didn’t think he had enough legs to do it. But you know, it’s pretty cool. Good to see the old guy’s got it a little bit.”
Nick Young who knows a lit bit about drama was so open mouthed a bunch of butterflies could have taken flight down his throat, nesting in the esophageal layers, and he wouldn’t have noticed.
D’Angelo Russell couldn’t contain his glee. He forgot this was a NBA game and not the park; and no you can’t leave your bench in stealth, rookie.
“I like took off and ran across the baseline, tried to get back before the ref saw me.”
Too late. Technical foul. Excessive celebrating.
It was that type of moment in a game in which Kobe was the best thing the Lakers had going, 9-16, 22 points. Don’t look now but Bryant is suddenly back to form. His last six games: 48% shooting, 36% from three, 5.5 rebounds, 4 assists, 18.8 points. Four of the six games have been 20+ point affairs. He admits his legs have felt really good.
But that good Kobe?
“My legs felt pretty good. Then i jumped. And I was like ‘Oh I’m still going up. And then I said, I might as well give it a try…How many times am I going to jump and my legs actually feel fine. So I might as well give it a shot’.”
His age and injury history notwithstanding, Bryant gave a fleeting thought to what ended his season last year, when he dunked and tore his rotator cuff. Message received: old dudes don’t try to grab back the fountain of youth. Stay in your lane.
The Victim of the dunk, Clint Capela, Rockets athlete du jour, was shocked that he was in that particular poster that was seen around the world. He expected a layup. He read the scouting report. Since tearing his Achilles, Bryant has dunked 9 times. This was his first dunk of the year. Capela tweeted afterwards:
@kobebryant told me that he surprised himself with that one, Me too #stillgotit
The rarity of the dunk, in its own way, is as legendary as Bryant. He refuses to dunk. At all. Not in practice, not when playing with his baby daughter Gianna who was tickled at what she was seeing courtside. He doesn’t dunk anymore, accepting that part of his life for the former Slam Dunk champion, is buried.
Julius Randle, the Kobe superfan as a kid growing up in Texas, has tried to get his idol to dunk but Kobe shut him down every time.
Randle: I’ve tried to tease him to get him a dunk or something. He’s like, ‘No I’m not doing it’ That was crazy. That was vintage Mamba right there. That was nuts. It caught me by surprise. I haven’t seen him dunk all year.”
Now he has.
“No idea where it came from but it was there. Can’t really explain it.” Kobe said.
Even in year 20, Kobe delivers the unexplainable.