Time For Kobe Bryant to Deliver On Promise
Guarantees don’t mean a whole lot in professional sports. Nothing is really guaranteed, and too often guarantees offered up by coaches, players or other team personnel are easily brushed aside and forgotten.
When Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant makes a guarantee, however, there is reason to stop and take notice. Bryant is not one to make bold proclamations, and he has made a career out of delivering when it matters most. That’s why, when Bryant guaranteed that his struggling Lakers team would make the playoffs it was a moment of note in the 2012-13 NBA season.
“It’s not a question of if we make the playoffs. We will,” Bryant said in a recent Sports Illustrated article. “And when we get there, I have no fear of anyone — Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Denver, whoever. I have zero nervousness about that.”
Of course, to deliver on that promise Bryant and the Lakers have to start beating the teams that matter and make up ground on the Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz and Golden State Warriors, who are their primary obstacles in the path to postseason play. Bryant said he was confident his team would make the playoffs and then be a tough out based on their recent close loss in Miami.
“We will make the playoffs,” Bryant reiterated. “And we will compete. And part of the reason I have that confidence is the Miami game. We had control of the game. That was no fluke. We were playing very, very well. We were reading the defense, making the extra pass.
“OK, they have two great players [LeBron James and Dwyane Wade] who scored eight straight buckets and took control of the game. But we were right there. We can do it.”
Since that game the Lakers have been good, winning six of eight games and putting the heat on the West’s sixth, seventh and eighth seeds to hang onto those coveted playoff berths. The only problem is that of the six teams the Lakers beat during that stretch none are elite, and only two – Boston and Atlanta – are playoff teams. Their two losses came at the hands of the Denver Nuggets and the Los Angeles Clippers, two of the West’s better teams.
Tonight, the Lakers face their biggest challenge since Kobe made his guarantee, and it’s a chance for them to prove they really can hang with the best teams in the NBA. The Oklahoma City Thunder will play host on TNT tonight in a game in which Kobe’s resolve and his bold statements about being able to compete with anyone will be tested to the limit.
The game will hold plenty of meaning for the Thunder, as well, as they look to recover from a rough patch – winners of just six of their last 10 games – and try to make up some ground on the West-leading San Antonio Spurs while Tony Parker is sidelined with an ankle injury.
Yes, it’s safe to say there is plenty at stake tonight as the Lakers and Thunder prepare to do battle. Most of all, however, it’s time for Kobe Bryant to deliver on his promise. If the Lakers are going to make the playoffs and then compete at all, they’re going to have to prove they can beat the league’s elite, and the Thunder are exactly that.