Was Kobe’s Game 7 performance worst-ever by game-winning superstar?

Kobe Bryant was brutal offensively last night, hitting just six of his 24 shots (25%) and turning the ball over four times. But he was great on the glass (15 rebounds) and found a way to get to the line in the fourth quarter, allowing him to score 10 points in the final period.

However, with a few exceptions, he took terrible shots all night long and had a couple of bad turnovers in the second half. It made me wonder — was Kobe’s performance last night the worst ever by a game-winning superstar in Game 7 of a Finals? Here’s a look at the last few comparables:

Kobe Bryant, 2010: 6-of-24, 23-15-2, 4 TOs
Tim Duncan, 2005: 10-of-27, 25-11-3, 5 TOs
Hakeem Olajuwon, 1994: 10-of-25, 25-10-7, 2 TOs

That’s it. There were just three Game 7s in the Finals in the last 22 years. Still, Kobe’s numbers don’t look too good. His shooting percentage was far worse than either Duncan or Olajuwon, but none of these guys had particularly good shooting nights.

Since box score data becomes more difficult to find the further back you go, I decided to look at all Game 7s (not just the Finals) from the ’00s to see how Kobe’s performance stacks up. (Note: I only included the conference semifinals and the conference finals. There isn’t as much pressure in Game 7s in the first round.)

Kobe Bryant, 2009 (WCS): 4-of-12, 14-7-5, 1 TO
Dwight Howard, 2009 (ECS): 5-of-9, 12-16, 3 TO
Tim Duncan, 2008 (WCS): 5-of-17, 16-14-3, 4 TO
Paul Pierce, 2008 (ECS): 13-of-23, 41-4-5, 4 TO
Dirk Nowitzki, 2006 (WCS): 11-of-20, 37-15-3, 0 TO
Steve Nash, 2006 (WCS): 11-of-16, 29-2-11, 4 TO
*Chauncey Billups, 2006 (ECS): 4-for-10, 12-8-3, 3 TO
*Chauncey Billups, 2005 (ECF): 5-of-15, 18-4-8, 1 TO
Kevin Garnett, 2004 (WCS): 12-of-23, 32-21-2, 2 TO (4 STL, 5 BLK)
*Chauncey BIllups, 2004 (ECS): 6-of-16, 22-2-7, 1 TO
Dirk Nowitzki, 2003 (WCS): 12-of-20, 30-19-2, 0 TO
**Shaquille O’Neal, 2002 (WCF): 12-of-25, 35-13-2, 3 TO
Ray Allen, 2001 (ECS): 10-of-18, 28-6-5, 4 TO
Allen Iverson, 2001 (ECS): 8-of-27, 21-4-16, 4 TO
Allen Iverson, 2001 (ECF): 17-of-33, 44-6-7, 2 TO
Patrick Ewing, 2000 (ECS): 5-of-10, 20-10-0, 1 TO
***Shaquille O’Neal, 2000 (WCF): 5-of-9, 18-9-5, 4 TO

I’ll stop there.

* It’s tough to pick the best player from the Pistons during this area, as they were probably the most balanced team in recent memory.
** Kobe shot 10-of-26, 30-10-7, 0 TO
*** Kobe shot 9-for-19, 25-11-7, 2 TO

There are some interesting lines in there. Look at Nowitzki’s lines (37-15-3 in 2006 and 30-19-2 in 2003)…wow. And Iverson’s 2001 line against the Bucks (44-6-7) was pretty epic.

While there have been some pitiful shooting nights — Tim Duncan in 2008, Allen Iverson in 2001 — no game-winning superstar has shot as bad as Kobe did in last night’s Game 7. Not in the last 10 years anyway.

What can we glean from this? Well, Kobe is very, very lucky that his teammates played as well as they did. Pau Gasol and Ron Artest really carried Kobe on the offensive end, while Derek Fisher and even Sasha Vujacic hit key shots/free throws down the stretch to seal the win. Moreover, the Laker defense kept the Celtics at bay once L.A. took the lead.

But no matter how poorly he shot, the Lakers won, and that’s all that matters in the end.

One thing is for certain — if Kobe doesn’t get the concept of team play by now, he’s never going to get it.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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