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New Jersey Nets Preseason Report 2014 posted by Nets Fan

New Jersey Nets has experienced several ups and downs in 2013-14 season. Starting slowly, the team managed a dismal 9-21, but there was a turnaround when Joe Johnson dominated over Oklahoma City. The team went to finish in the East at sixth seed. The Nets knocked out Toronto Raptors in first round's seventh game, and then were defeated by Miami Heat in the second round with only five games.   

In free agency, New Jersey Nets lost two main pieces. Paul Pierce left for the capital, and Shaun Livingston joined the Golden State Warriors. The team made acquisitions of young players, and their star addition was Bojan Bogdanovic, who was highly touted as the team's Euro stash. In a three team deal, New Jersey Nets had to give up Marcus Thornton, for Sergey Karasev and Jarrett Jack.

The Nets have kept changing their coach, and since 2012-13 season they have had their fourth coach. Lionel Hollins was brought in to replace Kidd, who joined Milwaukee. Hollins is known to focus on defense mainly. He has been an effective coach and was able to get Memphis Grizzlies to the finals of the Western Conference two seasons ago.

The acquisitions made by New Jersey Nets are not outstanding, especially when you consider the experience level of these players. Even if Kevin Garnett, Deron Williams, and Brook Lopez somehow bounce back and perform better, the Net will again finish with being sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. Experts predict 44-36 for the Nets, provided all the players are healthy and are giving their top performance. Deron Williams might get back to point guard position in the top seven, provided his ankle is fine. Expectations are running high for this player, who has yet to earn his contract amount. Lionel Hollins is expected to help Brook Lopez, just as he helped Zach Randolph and Gasol in Memphis.

Continue reading "New Jersey Nets Preseason Report 2014"


UEFA: Ukraine does not have any problematic objects posted by UkraineEURO2012

Over three hundred days before the start of Euro 2012 and Ukraine nas no building objects problems.

This was stated by the leaders of UEFA, Michel Platini, Gianni Infantino, according to Channel 5.

Olympic Stadium Renovation completed at 90%. Work in the Lvov stadium scheduled for completion in October. At the same time open and complex in Kiev.

Sports arenas in Kharkiv and Donetsk for two years as ready to receive visitors.

Also before the end of the year and expand the country's air gates - the airport "Borispol". The new terminal is to increase passenger numbers by half - to 12 million people a year.Continue reading "UEFA: Ukraine does not have any problematic ..."

Todd F. Dixon

Free Agency: Who the Redskins should and shouldn't sign posted by Todd F. Dixon

Okay, now comes our only "successful" part of the season as history has gone.  The Redskins always make a big splash in free agency and usually strikeout.  There have been a couple years when they took the year off and didn't do a whole lot (last year) but they are poised to make some big moves this year according to most credible sources.  As usual they are linked to many big-name free agents and will spend a lot of money unless they listen to me!

Nnamdi Asomugha - The Raiders free agent corner has been linked to so many teams and is widely regarded as the best free agent on the market.  He will be comanding 16-18 million a year and on the wrong side of 30 is a big thumbs down for me.  He is not a big turnover machine and is only good on one side.  He would not be good with our scheme nor opposite DHall.  We could get a few players for that price that would contribute and I want us to STAY AWAY!!

Santonio Holmes - He is a mold of Santana Moss and yes he is younger and a little more dynamic but he will command high dollars and is a locker room bane.  He also has off-the-field issues and would be a wasted of money.  The Skins have said he is their "Top" priority but they should just bid up and let him go back to the Nets, errr Jets.

Braylon Edwards - The other Jets free agent WR has also been linked to the Skins.  He also has problems off the field and has a history of not hanging on to the ball.  We do not need him at all, and it would be another waste of money.

Randy Moss, Ochocinco, and T.O. - Um.......hell no!  Fast fact: Vinny Cerrato actually offered 2 first round picks for Chad Ocho, so glad he is not with us anymore.

Continue reading "Free Agency: Who the Redskins should ..."


Ukrainian team will prepare for the Euro 2012 abroad posted by UkraineEURO2012

On the eve of starting the finals of Euro 2012 Ukraine national football team will hold a short training camp in Austria or Germany.
As part of this planned series of friendly matches, in particular, meeting in Vienna against Austria on 1 June.

This was told by the vice-president of the Football Federation of Ukraine Vladimir Lashkul. According to him, this is due to the requirements of UEFA, according to which national teams can not hold friendly matches in the host country for three months before the start of the tournament and a month after his graduation.

Recall that the coming friendlies team will play Ukraine on June 1 against a team of Uzbekistan in Kiev at the Dynamo stadium name Lobanovsky and June 6 against the French in Donetsk Donbass-Arena.Continue reading "Ukrainian team will prepare for the ..."

Les Leonard

Big Daddy Rides Brees’ Avalanche to the Bottom posted by Les Leonard

     What emotion described your mood after Sunday’s Superdome debacle? Did you feel disappointed, humiliated, angry, or betrayed? Big Daddy felt so humiliated by the Saints half-hearted effort. Only Brett Farve understood Saints fans embarrassment after his wood-stroking photos surfaced on the internet. Several of Big Daddy’s co-workers revisited the Madden Curse theory, citing Drew Brees’ God-awful performance in which 2 of his 4 interceptions resulted in pick-sixes. Others wondered if Cleveland Head Coach Eric Mangini instructed former Saints Scott Fujita and Mike Bell (two integral pieces to last year’s Super Bowl Championship team) to hire a Voodoo priestess to cast an Early Halloween spell on Drew. One thing is certain, the Browns’ coach unleashed his bag of tricks on the Crescent City, soundly out coaching Sean Payton all afternoon. Saints fans can only pray that the Black ’n’ Gold will collect tons of treats come Halloween night when Pittsburgh comes to town. In this edition of the Section 645 Saints Beat, Big Daddy tailgates in Champions Square, reports live from Section 645, recaps the Cleveland game, watches the New Orleans Hornets season opener, attends legendary Martinque chef Nat Carrier’s Birthday Bash, and releases his World Famous Pregame Information.

     Saints fans had Champions Square jam packed by 10 am. Some listened to the pregame concert, while others watched CBS’s coverage of the NFL Today on the big screen. No matter which option the Who Dat Army soldiers choose, they all munched down funnel cakes, hot dogs, and pretzels, watching down their tailgating eats with semi-cold $5.00 draught beers prior to entering the Superdome, where buying drinks smarts worse than a nun’s 3-sided ruler in parochial school. Once Big Daddy’s posse temporarily quenched their thirst, our group huddled around WWL’s Saints radio broadcast outside Gate C to catch some of Bobby Hebert’s, Deke Bellavia’s, and Mike Detillier’s pregame thoughts before ascending to hallowed Section 645 grounds near the summit of the Big Easy’s coolest man made mountain.

Continue reading "Big Daddy Rides Brees’ Avalanche to the Bottom"

Colin Linneweber

Chicago's Rain Man Picks Purdue To Win The National Championsip posted by Colin Linneweber

An autistic teenager from Chicago has incredibly assembled a flawless NCAA Men’s Tournament bracket as the Sweet 16 is set to commence tonight.  

Despite the myriad of shocking upsets, Alex Hermann has somehow selected all 48 games correctly. 

The website reported that the betting chances of having an unblemished bracket entering the Sweet 16 are one in 13,460,000. 

“It’s amazing,” Hermann, 17, told Chicago’s NBC affiliate. 

Hermann managed to comprise his perfect bracket by studying numbers to find an ideal combination. 

However, Hermann veered from his strategy when he selected the Purdue Boilermakers as the eventual winners of the national championship. 

Hermann predicted that the Boilermakers will ultimately take scissors to the nets in Indianapolis because his older brother, Andrew, attends Purdue. 

The fourth-seeded Boilermakers next game is scheduled for Friday night against the top-seeded Duke Blue Devils.  

The Autism Society defines autism as “a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first two years of life and is the result of a neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain, impacting development in the areas of social interaction and skills.” 

Hermann’s story is the most intriguing one regarding autism since the Oscar-winning movie Rain Main premiered in March 1989. 

If Purdue does capture the title, Alex Hermann’s account will be this year’s

Continue reading "Chicago's Rain Man Picks Purdue To ..."

Andy Charles

Collinson gets his big chance posted by Andy Charles

That collective sigh you heard was the one coming from New Orleans Hornets fans when they learned that All-Star point guard Chris Paul would be missing for maybe as long as two months in the wake of knee surgery.

Paul needs arthroscopic surgery for a cartilage tear in his left knee, an injury suffered in freak fashion seconds from the end of the loss to the Chicago Bulls last week when he collided with a photographer on the baseline as he went to retrieve an errant shot.

Results of a scan showed that Paul had a partial tear of his meniscus, an injury that really cannot be played through and could develop into something serious if left untreated for a long spell of time.

But maybe, just maybe, Paul’s absence will not be felt as badly as some NBA Predictions first thought, based on the performance of his replacement Darren Collinson in the 109-102 overtime win over a decent Memphis outfit on Saturday night.

Collinson played all but a few minutes of regulation and ended the game with 17 points and a superb Paul-esque 18 assists, working well in tandem with fellow rookie Marcus Thornton in the backcourt.

But is playing two rookie guards, with very little depth to come off the bench, what the Hornets need in the middle of a fierce playoff race that sees eight teams covered by only three-and-a-half games (as of Monday).

Sure the Hornets have plenty of experience further up the court in David West, Emeka Okafor and Peja Stojakovic, but another injury among their current starting five would put them in deep trouble with most NBA Bets and there isn’t really much coming off the bench that could be traded for an established veteran to help out.

Continue reading "Collinson gets his big chance"

Les Leonard

Big Daddy Feels Turbulence on Cloud 9 posted by Les Leonard

     New Orleanians began their work week all smiles again Monday morning courtesy of the Saints’ record-setting 9-0 start. Even though our wallets were decimated for the ninth straight game, Saints fans ain’t complainin’. As the Saints aim to complete their second of three triumphant visits to the Sunshine State Sunday, Big Daddy mentally prepares to go where Who Dat has gone before. In this week’s edition of the Section 645 Saints Beat, Big Daddy congratulates former U.S. Representative from Louisiana’s 2nd District William “Dollar Bill” Jefferson, reports the action live from the Kingpin, recaps the Tampa Bay game, examines recent Saints scares, forecasts the New Orleans Hornets season, and releases his World Famous Pregame Information.

     Who wasn’t relieved when U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III made his wise decision? Wednesday Ellis ruled that William Jefferson will remain free while he appeals his 11 count federal conviction. Obviously, Dollar Bill isn’t a flight risk because he’s such a devoted God-fearing family man. Bill’s ability to spend priceless family time during Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Mardi Gras, and the Saints first Super Bowl with his wife and kids has to be the feel-good story of the year. Do you think Lifetime will make a syrupy holiday special depicting the Jefferson’s tight-knit family? Perhaps the made-for-TV gem would teach struggling Americans how to afford Ivy League educations for their offspring like the Jeffersons did with their five amazing children. Since locals love “making groceries,” the movie could show people where to find those special frozen pie crusts that chemically react when ordinary freezers transform them into extraordinary devices that produce cold hard cash.

Continue reading "Big Daddy Feels Turbulence on Cloud 9"

Andy Charles

posted by Andy Charles

Allen Iverson’s sometime glittering career in the NBA could just be over after he left the Memphis Grizzlies early into his tenure with the franchise.

Although Iverson was given permission ‘to leave to attend to personal business’ late last week, his time in Memphis had already started to become a sideshow with more talk about him being asked to come off the bench than anything else.

Iverson had only played three times for the Grizzlies before leaving ahead of Saturday’s clash with the Los Angeles Clippers, and had not played badly in averaging 12.3 points and 3.7 assists despite his displeasure at not being in the starting line-up as Memphis preferred to start Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo in the backcourt.

The 34-year-old also complained at a lack of communication with coach Lionel Hollins, as he revealed: “It’s probably going to always be hard for me and him to see eye-to-eye, because we’ve never even talked to each other. Obviously that’s what you do if you’re trying to accomplish the same goal.”

Hollins was non-committal about Iverson returning to the team, issuing a ‘no comment’ and admitting he had no idea if he would be back in the short or even the long-term.

Memphis had been anticipated as one of the league’s improvers this season but have started the campaign just as in most recent years with their 1-6 record the joint worst in the Western Conference and better than only the injury-hit New Jersey Nets overall.

But it is Iverson’s future dominating the sports pages, with retirement the latest word to rear its ugly head despite comments from owner Michael Heisley that Iverson had not intimated to him that he was thinking about calling it a day.

Continue reading ""

Scott Shepherd

First Impressions posted by Scott Shepherd

The NBA season is officially underway (unless you live in Chicago or Milwaukee).


After several hours parked in front of the NBA League Pass for the past two days, it’s time for some first impressions.


The Good


Ty Lawson


How good was he last night? I predicted the Denver Nuggets to be the third best team in the West this season, and that was assuming that Ty Lawson would play like a rookie point guard.

But his 17 points, six assists, and four rebounds, plus very solid fourth quarter minutes in a close game against a decent Utah team, shows that he may be a real X factor for this team moving forward.


Brook Lopez


Lopez was a monster last night, finishing with 27 points, 15 rebounds, five blocks, and four assists. Of course, the Nets lost, mainly because they couldn’t hold off the mighty T’Wolves down the stretch, but it certainly wasn’t because of Lopez.


Los Angeles Lakers


I know they were playing the Clippers, but the champs didn’t miss a beat. This could have been the most lopsided seven-point game I’ve ever seen.


If it hadn’t been for the extended period in the second quarter where D.J. Mbenga tried to show his limitless range the Clippers would have lost by 20.


The Lakers starters (minus their second best player, Pau Gasol), were nothing short of dominant all game. They just toyed with the Clippers for most of the game, and clamped down where it mattered most.


Boston Celtics


Continue reading "First Impressions"

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The Mamba in flight: A Kobe Bryant Dunk History retrospective (Ball Don't Lie)

In each of the last two offseasons, we here at Ball Don't Lie have whiled away some late-summer moments by turning our attention to the past, recalling some of the most scintillating slams of yesteryear, the most thunderous throwdowns ever to sear themselves into our memories. We call this Dunk History . Today, on the occasion of his impending retirement after 20 years with the Los Angeles Lakers, Dan Devine presents a special installment celebrating the NBA dunking life of one Kobe Bean Bryant. [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr:  The best slams from all of basketball] There's been a tendency, in the latter days of his career, to label most every good thing Kobe Bryant does as "vintage." A "vintage" deep 3 . A "vintage" fadeaway . "Vintage" footwork . A "vintage" start to his final game in Philly that (in his mind, at least) raised the specter of  "an 81 situation." Perhaps this is to be expected. For one thing, the list of amazing moves Kobe pulled off during his first 17 seasons, before the Achilles tear that marked the beginning of the end (or maybe just the end ), is so long and rich that anything cool he does now immediately triggers memories of, and comparisons to, everything cool that came before. For another, he tried to nickname himself "Vino," and if we weren't going to go along with that — and we certainy weren't — then I suppose there are worse compromises than leaning hard on "vintage." Still, I've found myself a bit bugged by one category of classification: the "vintage" Kobe dunk. Yes, Kobe got Clint Capela . Yes, Kobe alley-ooped on the Kings . Yes, Kobe put one down on the break against the Celtics . Yes, any dunking done by a 37-year-old who survived a ruptured Achilles, a broken left knee and a torn right rotator cuff deserves praise. Even so, calling these "vintage" Kobe dunks damns with faint praise the ones he used to unleash. Kobe bombed on dudes. Kobe soared, and savaged, and sneered. Kobe climbed mountains because they were there, reduced them to rubble because he could, and kicked whatever rocks remaining on his way to the next monument. Vintage Kobe dunks — no scare-quotes needed — were breathtaking and dope. Let's watch some. *** • Oct. 22, 1997 : Kobe vs. Ben Wallace • Dec. 25, 1999 : Kobe vs. Jaren Jackson • Dec. 5, 2000 : Kobe vs. the Philadelphia 76ers • June 5, 2002 : Kobe vs. Todd MacCulloch • Feb. 6, 2003 : Kobe vs. Latrell Sprewell and all who would claim ownership of Madison Square Garden • Feb. 18, 2003 : Kobe vs. Yao Ming • April 15, 2003 : Kobe vs. Vincent Yarbrough • April 29, 2003 : Kobe vs. Kevin Garnett and the Minnesota Timberwolves • Nov. 12, 2004 : Kobe vs. Dwight Howard • Dec. 16, 2004 : Kobe vs. Doug Christie • April 26, 2006 : Kobe vs. Steve Nash • April 11, 2008 : Kobe vs. the New Orleans Hornets • April 26, 2011 : Kobe vs. Emeka Okafor and Carl Landry • Feb. 5, 2013 : Kobe vs. Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries • March 3, 2013 : Kobe vs. Josh Smith • Feb. 8, 1997 : Kobe vs. the Slam Dunk Contest *** Oct. 22, 1997: Kobe vs. Ben Wallace After a rookie year that showed the tantalizing talent that led Jerry West to move heaven, earth and Vlade Divac to snare him, but ended with four painful air balls that suggested an 18-year-old wasn't quite prepared for the big moments, Bryant was determined to prove he was ready for prime time. You can't really do that in preseason, but you can drop a tight teaser trailer, which is exactly what Kobe did by shaking Jimmy Oliver with a right-to-left crossover, taking flight from the dotted line, putting his right knee into the chest of the nearest help defender — who just so happened to be a future four-time Defensive Player of the Year — and Dhalsiming his right arm rimward. We were all Ben Wallace, wondering what the hell had just hit us. We were all the Lakers' bench, wondering if this teenager had really just Lister Blistered a dude in  preseason . We were all Chick Hearn, letting out an involuntary "wooo!" and wondering just how high this sophomore might rise next time. (For more on Kobe clocking Big Ben, I heartily recommend  Marcus Vanderberg's 2014 Dunk History post .) Dec. 25, 1999: Kobe vs. Jaren Jackson Kobe missed the first 15 games of the 1999-2000 season recovering from a broken right hand, suffered while fighting for a rebound during a preseason game against the Wizards . (Somewhere, a distant relative of Ben Wallace just whistled a few bars of "Instant Karma!" ) Under newly hired head coach Phil Jackson and behind behemoth center Shaquille O'Neal, the Lakers had managed an 11-4 start in Kobe's absence, but hit a new gear after his return, winning 11 of 12 heading into their marquee Christmas Day matchup with a San Antonio Spurs team that swept L.A. in the '99 Western semis en route to its first NBA championship. The Lakers had the NBA's record, 3 1/2 games better than the Spurs, and they wanted to send a message. They did. It read as follows: "Shaq's on a mission, Kobe's back, his hand works again, he's murder on the break, so watch your freaking head." It was a pretty detailed message. The dunk gave the Lakers a seven-point lead they wouldn't give up. They'd go on to win that game, and 44 more, on their way to the first title of a new Laker dynasty. Dec. 5, 2000: Kobe vs. the Philadelphia 76ers Lose Allen Iverson on the backcut off the right block, jump from the right side of the basket underneath the hoop to corral a lob that wound up to the left of the square, turn your body in mid-air to box out a late-rotating Tyrone Hill, catch the ball in your right hand and a forearm in your lower back, finish through the contact, come down calmly and flex on 'em. It's a near-perfect encapsulation of the athleticism, strength, artistry, elegance and snarl that so defined young Kobe. That night, after Bryant hung 36 on Philly in an 11-point win , Los Angeles Times columnist T.J. Simers called it "maybe the most spectacular play he has ever made." I'm with you, Brian Shaw. June 5, 2002: Kobe vs. Todd MacCulloch It's Game 1 of the 2002 NBA Finals, and the Lakers — winners of two straight NBA championships, now vying for a three-peat amid plenty of now-infamous in-house acrimony among Shaq, Kobe and Phil after barely surviving a seven-game slugfest with the rival Sacramento Kings — are pretty comfortably batting around the Eastern Conference champion New Jersey Nets like a tabby does a catnip-stuffed toy mouse. After L.A. builds a 23-point first-half lead and reaches cruising altitude, the Nets start causing some turbulence, with a pair of Keith Van Horn triples cutting the deficit to 10 points at 54-44. NBC color commentator Bill Walton says Van Horn is "starting to take matters into his own hands." On the very next play, Bryant does that atop the melon of the 7-foot fightin' pride of Winnipeg, Manitoba, offering a terse rejoinder suggesting that, no, this is what taking matters into your own hands looks like. "Oh my gosh ," Walton says. It was Shaq who carried the day, dominating the Nets' overmatched centers to the tune of 36 points (20 coming after halftime) and 16 rebounds to stake the Lakers to a 1-0 lead. But it was Kobe's crushing of MacCulloch that lived on in the collective memory, even inspiring an NBA Finals ad 11 years later: MacCulloch finished with 10 points and eight rebounds in that loss. There's a highlight video lauding his positive contributions. In nearly three years, it has received 719 views. The lesson, as always: history is written by the winners, especially those who do dope stuff on the road to victory. Feb. 6, 2003: Kobe vs. Latrell Sprewell and all who would claim ownership of Madison Square Garden Now, this is the vintage footwork. Pushed off the right block, back to the basket from two steps inside the arc, turn into the pressure to face up. Pump, jab-step right to create space, beat Spree — who, many moons ago, made an All-Defensive Team — to the baseline. Just like that, it's over. On one hand, you're screaming for Allan Houston or Charlie Ward or somebody, anybody , to help. On the other, can you blame them for wanting to just watch this up-and-under windmill happen? I mean, how often do you get to be on the horizon as the sun sets? Other favorite things about this include: • Kevin Harlan blessing the blow-by reverse with the "WITH NO REGARD FOR HUMAN LIFE" tag; • Literal giggling as completely appropriate and factually accurate color commentary; • That this was the beginning of Kobe's nine-game streak of 40-plus-point nights, still the longest such run since Michael Jordan in 1986 ; • That 46 points in 41 minutes isn't even close to the most murderous performance that Kobe would turn in at the World's Most Famous Arena. Feb. 18, 2003: Kobe vs. Yao Ming Less than two weeks after detonating at MSG, Kobe remained red hot and rampaging, putting up points in bunches to prove beyond all doubt that he was at the peak of his offensive powers. That's not to say that he didn't have help from his friends — Rick Fox deserved an assist for that screen on James Posey, who got precious little help from Cuttino Mobley — but if you're looking for a metaphor for the ways in which Winter 2003 Kobe stood astride the basketball world like a conquering Colossus, you could do worse than watching him dunk straight through and on top of a 7-foot-6 international phenomenon (who, by the way, more than held his own in this one, putting up 24 points, 14 rebounds, three assists and a block in 40 minutes before fouling out in a seven-point overtime loss ). More than a decade later — thanks in large part to years and years of marketing and promotional visits, the many commercials , the exhibition explosions , the reality shows and charitable giving , and everything else — Kobe remains one of the most beloved athletes in China, the kind of megawatt superstar who inspires snow portraits , multiple sculptures and heaving sobs . As noted by's Thomas Neumann , though, some of China's love of Kobe stems from the fact that when the nation turned its collective attention to the NBA to focus on Yao's voyage to Houston, Kobe had become the game's most lethal and exciting offensive player — a fact visited with extreme prejudice upon the top of Yao's head that February night. April 15, 2003: Kobe vs. Vincent Yarbrough I'm generally skeptical about "Could Athlete from Sport X Have Played Sport Y?" hypotheticals, but this is the one that makes me think the idea of Kobe playing soccer — as discussed this week by my FC Yahoo colleague Ryan Bailey — might've made sense. The instinctive search for open space that has him sprinting off a made free throw, the first touch that sees him catch Robert Horry's long ball over his head and immediately ready a behind-the-back dribble, the footwork to make that right-to-left change of direction on a dime, the fluidity that allows him to both instantly get off the floor as soon as his left foot hits the charge circle and turn 180 degrees to avoid Yarbrough's attempted swipe, the stylish finish, the collection of really hard things completed in a split-second in a fashion that looks nearly effortless ... all of it feels like something a world-class striker would pull off. No wonder that's the spot our man Eric Freeman picked for Kobe in his NBA-players-as-U.S.-men's-national-teamers thought experiment during the 2014 World Cup. I'm not done revisiting this, so let's watch a years-later TNT segment on the play in which Marv Albert lauds Yarbrough's attempts to avoid posterization: April 29, 2003: Kobe vs. Kevin Garnett and the Minnesota Timberwolves Stylistically, very similar to the baseline bomb Kobe dropped at MSG; contextually, though, a world away. After stealing home-court advantage from theWolves, who finished the regular season one game better than the defending champs, the Lakers gave it back in L.A. and returned to Minnesota with the series knotted 2-2. Whichever team seized control of Game 5 would have a leg up in the rest of the series, and the Lakers controlled the action from nearly the opening tip. They took a 10-point lead into halftime before pouring it on in the third quarter behind — guess who? — No. 8, who scored 16 of his game-high 32 points in the third, none louder than the two that came after taking advantage of a scrambling switch, blowing by KG's closeout, going airborne and finishing with a flourish around and over rotating 7-footer Rasho Nesterovic. Harlan's call was pitch-perfect — after watching Bryant work the baseline at the Garden two months prior, he knew what to expect when Kobe took off, and you absolutely could hear the Minnesota faithful, in unison, wince and "ooooooooh" as he dropped the hammer. That's what Kobe Bryant did: he screamed past you, danced around you, erupted on top of you, and left you unsure what you could do to stop it from happening again. The Wolves would never get closer than 14 points the rest of the way. The Lakers would win Games 5 and 6 by a combined 46 points. Nov. 12, 2004: Kobe vs. Dwight Howard Six games into Dwight's career, Kobe got his first shot at the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 draft, a fellow preps-to-pros phenom purported to be the NBA's next great big man. He took that shot — I mean, it is Kobe — and man oh man, did he not miss. To be fair, Howard didn't have a whole lot of help here. DeShawn Stevenson didn't exactly sacrifice himself trying to get over the top of Lamar Odom's brush screen, and it looked like, in the instant Pat Garrity stepped up to contain the play, he remembered in a flash that he was Pat Garrity trying to stop Kobe Bryant. And Dwight did pull down 15 rebounds in a game that the Magic, for what it's worth, wound up winning . But sometimes when you win, you really lose, which is word to Rosie Perez , and in this case, while Dwight won the game, Kobe won the war. The still shot of Kobe posterizing Dwight is absolutely iconic, and seven years , nine years , 11 years later, Dwight had to answer questions about getting got. (Dwight, as you might expect, does not like these questions.) Fairly or unfairly, everything that came later — all the well - covered discord of their lone season as teammates , and their subsequent resumption of unpleasantries — gets refracted through the prism of Kobe going straight through Howard's chest the first time he laid eyes on him ... even if, as Dwight has repeatedly emphasized over the years, he never did it again. "I baptized him," Bryant later  said of his '04 greeting. "I turned him into a Defensive Player of the Year." Dec. 16, 2004: Kobe vs. Doug Christie During all those battles the Lakers had with the Sacramento Kings, Doug Christie played Kobe about as tough as anybody — well, anybody not named Tony Allen, according to the Mamba himself — but at the end of the day, "tough" only matters so much with a rocker step like that and a burst that quick. Also, shouts to Kobe for figuring out a way to dramatically improve on the monsters he dropped on the Knicks and Wolves. Two hands: very fundamentally sound. Also, speaking of sound: if I was Doug Christie, the ka-chunk of the rim rattling would probably give me at least two nightmares every year, even nearly a dozen years later. April 26, 2006: Kobe vs. Steve Nash Two seasons removed from the messy end of the Shaq-Kobe era and one season after the Rudy Tomjanovich/Frank Hamblen interregnum between Zen Master stints, Kobe (and Lamar, who never gets enough credit) carried the likes of Smush Parker, Kwame Brown, Chris Mihm and Brian Cook to 45 wins and the No. 7 seed. Bryant averaged 41 minutes per game, led the NBA in scoring at 35.4 points per game, had the league's third-highest Player Efficiency Rating ... and had to watch Nash hoist his second straight Most Valuable Player trophy, his reward for an absurdly efficient turn as the brilliant playmaking engine of the feel-good Phoenix Suns. Reasonable people can argue over whether Kobe should've taken Nash's place atop the MVP ballot. (Or, for that matter, the places of LeBron James or Dirk Nowitzki, both of whom also finished higher than Kobe.) But in Game 2 of the first-round playoff matchup between their teams, Bryant exacted a pretty perfect measure of revenge. Nash tried to do the "right" thing: racing to take a charge after a loose-ball scramble, sacrificing himself to force a turnover. Kobe tried to do the coolest thing: absolutely steamrolling him to tomahawk it with his right hand. In that moment, divergent definitions of "value" were rendered meaningless. In that moment, Kobe won. April 11, 2008: Kobe vs. the New Orleans Hornets After two hard years featuring first-round exits at the hands of the Suns, Kobe and the Lakers once again returned to the upper echelon of the NBA late in the 2007-08 season, thanks in part to the trade deadline acquisition of star Memphis Grizzlies big man Pau Gasol. By the final week of the season, L.A. found itself in a nip-and-tuck race with a handful of excellent teams for the top spot in the Western Conference ... including the upstart Hornets, led by third-year point guard Chris Paul, the NBA's leader in assists and steals, who had just made his first All-Star team and was giving Bryant a run for his money in the race for that elusive MVP trophy. This super-sick, 'Nique-style double-pump reverse dunk off an offensive rebound didn't really seal the Lakers' win — it put them up by 15, but a late NOLA run made L.A. sweat out a 107-104 final — and it probably didn't seal Kobe's first and only Podoloff. But it damn sure didn't hurt, either. April 26, 2011: Kobe vs. Emeka Okafor and Carl Landry By age 32, with all the minutes he'd rolled up over his first 14-plus NBA seasons, Bryant's flights had become far less frequent. He tended to work more from the post and perimeter while Gasol and Andrew Bynum manned the interior, and more often operated below the rim when he did venture inside. But sometimes, the calculation has to change; sometimes, the only way forward is through. Eight years after taking flight against the Wolves, the Lakers once again faced a pivotal Game 5 against a tough opponent. Again, Kobe went straight into the teeth of the defense, not once, but twice, knifing through the paint and into the face of the Hornets' bigs — first premier shot-blocker Emeka Okafor, to get the Lakers within two points late in the first half, and then bruising Carl Landry, to cap a third-quarter surge that gave L.A. its largest lead of the game. The Lakers would win Games 5 and 6 by a combined 34 points to advance to the conference semis, where they would run smack into the Dirk Nowitzki-led buzzsaw that was the Dallas Mavericks. After a four-game sweep , Phil Jackson stepped down, and nothing in L.A. was really the same after that; these were the last great dunks of Kobe's final years of postseason relevance. Feb. 5, 2013: Kobe vs. Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries So, so, so much had gone wrong for the 2012-13 Lakers. A team damn near everybody tabbed as the favorites to win the NBA championship after the blockbuster deals that imported Howard and Nash to work alongside Bryant, Gasol and Metta World Peace had short-circuited instantaneously, losing four of its first five games in disappointing fashion to earn  Mike Brown his pink slip . Hiring Mike D'Antoni didn't seem to make much of a difference for a team alternating surges and skids amid injuries and ill-tempered interactions. The Lakers needed something to feel unreservedly good about. For a second in Brooklyn, Kobe delivered. "Whatever else had lapsed in his basketball life – the years, the knees, the busted-up shoulder and failing foot of the Lakers' crumbling 7-footers – Bryant had come to elevate over everything, elevate over everyone on Tuesday night," our Adrian Wojnarowski wrote . How long Kobe could continue elevating at age 34 remained to be seen, but two things were evident after his christening of Barclays Center: he could still do it, and the Lakers still needed him to. March 3, 2013: Kobe vs. Josh Smith Despite remaining under .500 at the All-Star break, Bryant guaranteed the Lakers would make the playoffs , and then set about the task of carrying them there. At times, that meant taking over games late; at times, that meant going up against bigger, stronger, more athletic defenders, like the Atlanta Hawks' Smith, and just deciding that they weren't going to stop him, even if that required the kind of explosion that, frankly, people really weren't totally sure Kobe could still muster. From Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times : He hadn't elevated like this since ... 2009? 2007? Earlier? "Vino," he said, smiling, letting the better-with-age metaphor hang for a moment. "Honestly, I can't really explain it. Once I turned the corner on [Smith], it was just a matter of if the help was going to get there in time to take a charge." There was no help. Only an excited murmur in the arena that lasted several minutes after the initial roar of elation. So, again, what gives? "I don't know. You guys tell me," Bryant said, gently chiding reporters. "I was in my coffin a few years ago. I've got plenty in the tank, but if y'all want to feel free to criticize and say I don't, go right ahead." Bryant might have had plenty in the tank at that point, but he'd played 39 minutes to beat Atlanta , beginning a stretch in which he'd log at least 38 in 16 of the Lakers' next 21 games, top the 40-minute mark 10 times, and average more than 45 minutes a game over a two-week span heading into the final week of the season. He was productive as hell, and the Lakers needed every bit of it, but the cost was immeasurable. Six weeks later, his leg gave out, and we'd never see him dunk like that again. But let's not end there. Let's go back to the beginning. Feb. 8, 1997: Kobe vs. the Slam Dunk Contest No, the '97 Dunk Contest isn't remembered all that fondly by competition connoisseurs, especially in the age of  LaVine vs. Gordon . But rewatching the final-round dunk that won Kobe the title — a not-quite-there-but-still-pretty-cool approximation of Isaiah Rider's "East Bay Funk Dunk" — you can see the future spreading out before Kobe. You can the shape of things to come. The calm, almost matter-of-fact approach from the left wing. The stylish arc of the ball as he brings it from under his right leg up over his head, and the extra snap his wiry frame puts into slingshotting it through the rim. The pause for dramatic effect after landing; the Bruce Lee light flex. The ease which he bathes in the adulation of the crowd. The proto-jaw-jut as he walks back toward his competitors. As many have noted, Kobe has long sought to cultivate an identity as the game's most maniacal, focused and diligent worker. All that rigorous study and craft-honing mattered a great deal to the legend he became ... and yet, so much of what brought about fans' connections to Bryant — the pursuit of spotlight and victory, the athleticism, talent and drive that would fuel his search, the penchant for showmanship, the willingness to play the villain — was already there in that first trip to All-Star Weekend. I don't doubt that devoting countless hours to mastering the minutiae of the game helped Kobe stay on top as long as he did. It didn't make him a star, though. He already was one when we met him. More NBA coverage: - - - - - - - Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YourManDevine Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL , "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more. [read full article]

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