Saturday, May 03, 2008

MVP at Salt Lake

With Kobe Bryant reportedly winning this year's Most Valuable Player award a day before beginning a second round series against the Utah Jazz, it seems like a timely reminder to look back on the first time Kobe played in Salt Lake City during the playoffs:

JAZZ 98, LAKERS 93 (OT) (May 12, 1997) — This was the fifth and deciding game in the conference semifinals in the Delta Center. Bryant was just a non-starting rookie at the time, but he showed that, for good or bad, he wasn't afraid to take the big shot at crunch time.

While veterans such as Byron Scott, Nick Van Exel and Eddie Jones watched, Bryant tried to will the Lakers to the victory. The rookie took the potential game-winning 3-pointer at the end of regulation, but it was an airball. He then shot three more treys in overtime — all of them airballs. In all, Bryant, then 18, took six shots in the final moments of regulation and overtime and missed five of them as his first playoff experience ended on a sour note.

"I had some good looks," Bryant explained afterward. "I just didn't hit the shots."