Did Kobe quit against the Suns in 2006?

Much has been written about that Game 7 against the Suns four years ago, where the Lakers became just the eighth team to lose a series after taking a 3-1 lead. Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com watched the game with fresh eyes to see if Kobe really did quit on his team.

The Suns won the game 121-90. But they didn’t win because Bryant took just three shots in the second half.

The Lakers, as a team, shot poorly and were routinely beaten by the Suns’ pick-and-roll sets on offense.

L.A. decided to switch on the screens, leaving Nash free to shoot over big men who didn’t close out fast enough to harrass his shots. Marion, Thomas and Boris Diaw were free to either shoot over smaller Lakers guards or roll all the way to the rim. When the Lakers did close out fast enough, they often over-pursued, leaving Nash and Barbosa opportunities to use their quick first steps to blow by unbalanced defenders. There was even one possession in the third quarter in which Parker was picked and George stayed with Diaw instead of switching, leaving Nash wide open as he traipsed in for a layup.

Lost in the “Kobe tanked” narrative was the fact that Barbosa and the Suns’ bench outscored the Lakers’ reserves 50-21. And obscured by the idea that Kobe didn’t do enough to help his team win was the fact that the Suns shot 61 percent from the field, while no Lakers player (other than Bryant, who finished 8-for-16) shot 50 percent or better.

I tend to agree. Kobe wouldn’t quit, but he wears his emotions on his sleeve, so if he’s following the game plan — in this case, getting his teammates involved — and it’s not successful, then his body language might make it look like he has quit.

Remember, this is all pre-Gasol stuff, and Kobe’s frustration was mounting. He often glared or screamed at his teammates and was generally an a-hole to play with.


Photo from fOTOGLIF

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