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Kobe Bryant could provide greatness with his own flu game

May 10, 2012|By Mark Medina
  • Lakers guard Kobe Bryant walks off the court following the Lakers' loss to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday.
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant walks off the court following the Lakers'… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

He lacked so much strength because of flu-like symptoms that he couldn't make it to the morning shoot-around before an NBA playoff game. He spent most of the day resting, receiving treatment and hoping his health would improve. He then showed why he was one of the NBA's greatest players despite showing visible signs that he could pass out at any moment.

That could be a recap for two instances. First, it describes how Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan scored 38 points in the team's 78-73 Game 5 victory over the Utah Jazz in the 1997 NBA Finals, when he played despite suffering from flu. Former Bulls coach Phil Jackson once said that marked the "greatest game I've seen Michael play." Second, it could foreshadow what Kobe Bryant will provide tonight when the Lakers visit Denver in Game 6 of their first-round playoff series.

The circumstances are different. Bryant missed Thursday's morning shoot-around because of what the Lakers described as "flu-like symptoms," though reporters including The Times' Mike Bresnahan mentioned Coach Mike Brown believes Bryant will play tonight. Trainers reportedly told Jordan there'd be no way he could recover in time to play, but he proved otherwise. Bryant will be testing his health in a first-round game while Jordan did so in the NBA Finals.

Still,'s J.A. Adande mentioned he had been told Kobe is as "sick as a dog." This provides Bryant an opportunity to have his own "flu" game. It's fitting when you consider that Bryant is currently chasing his sixth NBA championship, which would match Jordan. And providing his own theatrics tonight would only further bolster those comparisons.

In reality, it's unfair. Both of their legacies stand on their own. Although he has used Jordan's accomplishments as a measuring stick, Bryant's mostly motivated by winning itself by maximizing his own greatness. In that respect, seeing Bryant having a memorable performance could bolster appreciation for other reasons.

It would provide yet another example of how Bryant has played through pain. He dropped 40 points in three consecutive games this season despite nursing a torn ligament in his right wrist. Bryant went on a four-game tear when he scored at least 30 points despite wearing a plastic mask to protect his broken nose and whiplash to his neck.

The effort would give Bryant the last retort to numerous Nuggets fans who've booed him all series. It would also overshadow his 30-of-99 shooting mark from the field at Pepsi Center this season through two regular-season games and two playoff games.

More importantly, it would give the Lakers a shot of adrenaline to close out their series against Denver and provide another reminder to Andrew Bynum that he always has to play at maximum effort.

Of course, there are other ramifications toward such an approach. Bryant might face limitations because of his health. As Game 5 demonstrated with his 43-point outburst, another night filled with Bryant highlight-reel plays might not be enough if he lacks a supporting cast.

While we don't know what storyline will happen tonight, it likely will be a memorable one.


Kobe Bryant misses shoot-around because of flu-like symptoms

Lakers-Nuggets series: Five things to watch in Game 6

Andrew Bynum makes it tough for Lakers in close-out game

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Kobe Bryant could provide greatness with his own flu game

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