Forget Kobe’s 81, Who wants to be THE ONE?

81 points. What can I possibly say about Kobe’s 81 points that isn’t going to be said in the hundreds of papers and sites across North America? Wait a sec, they’re probably going to talk about this in Europe too, so me having anything unique to say about the situation just isn’t going to happen. They had an 18 point lead, they played soft, Kobe was hot, Raptors lose. Pretty simple. Or is it?
Okay, let me precursor this by saying that by no means do I condone thuggery or violence in the NBA. The last thing you want to see is somebody get hurt, especially a star. SO, after saying that, on with the rest of my thoughts.

Kobe needed to be put flat on his butt last night. Somebody had to step up and knock him down hard, even if it was flagrant. You cannot let somebody dance around your team like that, taking shots however they please while you stand in awe. Let’s take the clock back to the Detroit Piston Bad Boys days. Do you for one second, think that Bill Laimbeer would have let Kobe walk down the middle and throw down a dunk on his way to 81 points? Bill would have said, “Not on my watch” and knocked Kobe in the front row, no bones about it. He wouldn’t have tried to hurt him, but he definitely would have made Kobe think every time he got the ball, “Hmm…maybe I should settle for a jump shot”.

Okay, so you’re saying, hey, Kobe hit a bunch of jump shots too. Right. But if you are able to take an element of his game away (or at least reduce it), guarding against the jump shot becomes that much easier. Remember how easy Wince Carter was to guard when he decided he wasn’t going to dunk anymore? Given, he also decided he wasn’t going to try anymore, break a sweat anymore, play with heart anym…wait a sec, he never played with heart, but the point is, once you check one point of a guy’s game, the rest is that much easier to guard.

This was a chance for somebody to turn into a national pariah. Can you imagine the heat somebody would have received for clubbing Kobe? It would have been on all of the highlights and Don Cherry probably would have invited the guy to be on Coach’s Corner. To compare the situation to another sport, remember back when Ronnie Lott was with the 49ers? He was the most feared hitter in the league. If you were playing San Fran, you had to know where he was at all times. On the few plays opposing teams would run across the middle of the field, the result was one of three things: 1) Gator arms, where the guy didn’t fully extend because he knew he was going to get smoked, 2) He actually caught it and got smoked, 3) He cut the route off short. It was all about having a presence.

Maybe the Raptors need Charles Oakley as an assistant. Can you imagine walking back to the bench and having Oak looking back at you after Kobe just dunked over you? He would tell you that you can embarrass yourself with an unnecessary behind the back pass, you can take terrible shots that don’t hit anything, you can even walk down the court, but there would be no way in hell he would let you have somebody score so easily on you. He would kill a man on the court before letting him score 81 points.

So again, I’m not about thuggery, but there comes a point where you have to lay down the law. You have to stand up when you’re being embarrassed. You have to say that it isn’t going to happen while you’re on the floor. It’s called heart. It’s called Laimbeer. It’s called Oakley. The Raptors need some.