The stage was set last night for an epic battle between the game’s preeminent superstars but the race nearly ended in the starting blocks as Kobe Bryant dislocated the ring finger on his shooting hand early in the first quarter (while guarding Lebron James).
After having the finger popped back into place, Kobe returned to the game and, despite the pain, he continued to show why he is the league’s best competitor.
Throughout the game James showed a dazzling array of moves with a strength and quickness that is unmatched in the game today. Lebron continually proved that he can hit shots of the greatest degrees of difficulty as he made many highlight-reel-worthy moves.
But in the match up between the Lakers and Cavs it was clear that Kobe Bryant had not only the better supporting cast but the leadership and toughness to maintain control of the game despite playing through pain.
Kobe looked to get his teammates involved and the numbers show it as he dished out 12 assists to Lebron’s 4. And although held to 20 points, Bryant hit timely shots to keep the Lakers ahead, continually putting the game out of reach for the Cavs.
It’s clear that Lebron James knocks on the door of greatness and, individually, he might be the best player in the NBA, but it was Kobe Bryant, now in his 13th season, who displayed greater leadership and poise.
This is a lesson that James needs to take personally. For much of the game Lebron was content to take on the Lakers all by himself and while he proved to be a difficult opponent it is nevertheless true that basketball is a team sport and it is the better team that usually prevails.