Wearing my 4-year old lucky Lakers shorts, I sit on the edge of the TV couch, panic stricken, ready to throw a Buster Bluth fit as the game clock winds down to 0.7 of a second in the 4th. The Los Angeles Lakers trails Phoenix Suns by 2, and Steve Nash is in possession of the ball. Damnit! Why does he have to be so darn good? As I knuckle under yet another display of Nash's brilliance, a miracle pops up in the form of a quick steal from Smush Parker. Parker quickly passes the ball to Kobe Bryant. Bryant runs a fastbreak, heads to the paint, and wildly throws the ball in the air as he entangles himself in a Tim Thomas and Shawn Marion tight defense. And then… swoosh! The ball sinks in. The buzzer blares. And the game extends to a 5 minute overtime.

Bryant hugs Parker by the head and says something like: 'You did good, you motherfucker!' (go ahead, turn on the TiVo, re-watch the game, and read Bryant's lips). And just as the Suns threaten to upset the game in overtime, Nash makes another turnover and forces a jump with Luke Walton. At 6'8", Walton, of course, reaches the ball first and taps it to Bryant. With a fraction of a second remaining, Bryant beats the buzzer with a 17-footer, sinking the ball and nailing an improbable 99-98 victory boosting the team's chances (3-1) in the first round Western Conference playoff series.

What a thrill ride of a game! Bryant repeats his game-winning bucket against Phoenix in game 3 back in 2000 (2.6 seconds remaining, 97-96 upset). Deja vu? Wait until Bryant half-raises a fist in the air, juxtapose a Michael Jordan winning moment montage, presto! A likeness to greatness, indeed.

Of course, Jordan is Jordan and Bryant still shakes off his indiscretions-past (read: rape charges, admission to adultery, and, by Phil Jackson's appraisal, 'uncoachable' persona). But it's hard to equally shake off the brilliance that is Kobe, especially with his recent 81 point scoring — second all-time high in NBA history — against Toronto last January.

He was 25 when he earned his 10,000th point, making him the youngest to achieve such feat in NBA history. And with former teammate Shaquille O'Neal, he enabled the Lakers franchise three consecutive NBA championships (2000-2002).

Sure, he can be a 'ball hog' at times, but come crunchtime, who to better trust the ball with and ensure a game-winning shot than Kobe Bryant?

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