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Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, right, puts up a shot as Houston Rockets center Omer Asik.
On a night when the two top scorers in the NBA were supposed to go toe-to-toe, Kobe Bryant decided he was going to do much more than score. Ten games into the season, Bryant formally announced his candidacy for MVP.
When the Lakers were struggling to win games under Mike Brown, Bryant was the only reason the Lakers weren’t getting blown out. In the four games the Lakers lost prior to Brown’s firing, Kobe averaged more than 30 points per game and shot 56.8 percent from the field. On top of that, Bryant was averaging more than 38 minutes per game on an injured foot.
Bryant was not the reason the Lakers started 1-4.
On Sunday night against the Rockets, Kobe was on a mission to prove he was not only the greatest scorer of his generation but also the greatest player. Kobe started the game with a near-perfect first quarter. He started 4-for-7 from the field for 11 points, collected seven rebounds, and dished five assists to give the Lakers an 11-point lead after one quarter.
Bryant went on to finish with 22 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists, and three steals. Bryant recorded the 18th career triple-double of his career. More importantly, the Lakers won the game.
Bryant’s performance was spectacular. With his team winning four of the last five games, the Lakers look like they’re ready to contend with Kobe leading the way.
Through 10 games this season, Bryant is putting up numbers that even stand out on his hall-of-fame resume. Kobe is shooting 52.8 percent from the field, well above his career average of 45.4 percent. He is also shooting 40.5 percent from three-point range, also well above his career average of 33.7 percent.
Kobe’s best shooting percentage in a season came in the 2001-02 season when he shot 46.9 percent from the field. From distance, Kobe shot a career-worst 25.0 percent that season. During the 2002-03 season, Bryant put work in on his 3s and shot a career best 38.3 percent from distance.
This season, Kobe is shooting significantly better than he ever has before.
Lakers fans understand that their guy is, seemingly, better than ever. Even though fans begged for Dwight Howard to come to Los Angeles, Bryant still gets the best reception at the start of every Lakers game.
Against the Rockets, Staples Center chanted “MVP” louder than it has at any point this season. The fans’ season-long MVP campaign took a serious tone on Sunday night, but Kobe’s clearly been serious about this season since Game One.