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Andy Natalie
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Sixers Blog

76ers Missing a Clear-Cut Building Block posted by Sixers Blog

Is there a surefire star in Philly? The Philadelphia 76ers certainly hope so.

All of the losses this team has suffered the past two seasons (63 in 2013-14, 23 and counting this time around) have essentially produced Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid.

European forward Dario Saric could eventually be a part of this puzzle, but he may not come stateside before 2016 at the earliest. And promising rookie K.J. McDaniels' unique one-year deal means he will already hit restricted free agency next summer.

So, without knowing what future drafts will hold for the Sixers, Carter-Williams, Noel and Embiid make up the bulk of hope for this forward-thinking franchise. Each offers a certain amount of intrigue, but none remotely qualifies as a guaranteed star.

The lanky 6'6" Carter-Williams stuffs a stat sheet well, but his career .404/.264/.690 shooting slash may limit him to being a quantity-over-quality producer. Noel has already shown to be a disruptive defender (1.6 steals and 1.5 blocks), but his offense needs plenty of work. Embiid could have the highest ceiling of all three, though injuries might prevent him from realizing his potential.

the Sixers are not short on hope. They are, however, painfully thin on sure things. And a growing pile of future draft picks is not going to change that.

"You can't assure yourself of anything in the lottery," former NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik said, per David Gelles of The New York Times. "And you can't assure yourself when the next LeBron James or Tim Duncan is going to come along."

Continue reading "76ers Missing a Clear-Cut Building Block"


Sixers Blog

2014 Philadelphia 76ers Preseason Report posted by Sixers Blog

Even though the Philadelphia 76ers ended the 2013-14 season on a strong note, their overall 19-63 record was quite dismal. Out of the last eight games, the team managed to win three, which is not much, but considering they were1-26 during February and March, the last stretch does not seem bad. Earlier in the season, the 76ers displayed some hectic style, which brought some success, but it did not last. Brett Brown, the new coach seems to have introduced a strong pace where the players seemed to be fiercely jumping around the court, which gave them 3-0 start.

For 2014-15 season, the Philadelphia 76ers are as far away from winning the title, as they were in the previous season. Philadeliphia is known for gathering younger assets, and this year they seem to focus on the same strategy, rather than winning. Most probably, 76ers will trade their PF starter of last season for Anthony Bennett, who was overall first pick last year. Even though Bennett might have had the worst rookie season, he is still young and in good shape.

Nerlens Noel who did not play in his rookie year is quite raw, but he will be eager to show his athleticism and talent that made him the first overall pick in the draft last year. Joel Embid is another player having great potential, but unfortunately, he might be sitting it out this season due to his foot injury. If Noel and Embid are able to deliver their full potential, then Philadelphia will have a good foundation and might even reach the playoffs.

Elfrid Payton who plays PG was second selection by the 76ers in their first round picks. Payton has good length and is ready; however, he was traded for Dario Saric. This means Philadelphia is again trading wins in the new season for later.

Continue reading "2014 Philadelphia 76ers Preseason Report"


Andy Natalie

Holiday is Your Point Guard posted by Andy Natalie

I know that Lou Williams has been waiting and working for the point guard job since he was drafted out of high school. And he clearly has improved over the years. And I also know that Eddie Jordan insists he doesn't look at the positions like you traditionally do.

But make no mistake about it Jrue Holiday is a much better basketball player and point guard than Lou Williams. This guy is a nice acquisition. Almost a Thaddeus Young type draft pick. It looked liked a decent pick and now has a chance to be huge in the big picture.

If I was the 76ers I would start Holiday and let him grow while the team stinks. Lou Williams is a good back up, let's keep it that way until he proves otherwise.

On Monday night the 76ers actually played a solid game to beat the New Orleans Hornets. The thing that impressed me the most was that only one player, Iguodala played more than 40 minutes.

And Elton Brand continues to be a solid bench player. An expensive one, but solid nonetheless.

I wish Dalembert would rebound like this every-night. He'll have big nights on the glass like this an yet he still has a blah 8.7 rebounds per game average. Anything under 10 for me sucks, when you are a center. Now I should allow some leeway for his lack of overall minutes. That said I still think 10 a game would be attainable.

I have to credit the Sixers somewhat in this win. They jumped out and plastered the Hornets in the 1st quarter but New Orleans put up back to back 31 point quarters to make the game a 1 point deficit for them. It was 76ers 75 and Hornets 74 going into the 4th. And the Sixers battled for the 96 - 92 win.

Continue reading "Holiday is Your Point Guard"


Andy Natalie

Bringing Up The Bottom (DEC 30) posted by Andy Natalie

Even with the win in Portland we are looking pretty solid at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. My hope is we keep this up. Honestly with a healthy Speights and Iverson the team is a little more watchable.

Elton Brand looked better the other night also. It appears that whether he likes coming off the bench or not, that playing around 30 minutes is better for him. He led the team with 25 points even in Monday's win. He also led with 9 boards.

Iverson's 19 points and 5 assists from the #2 was solid also. Lou Williams who is the heir apparent PG has been okay since returning but frankly I thought Jrue Holiday showed more promise.

At this point I would love to see a radical change for us to go young! Here is what the Sixers should do. Trade Sam Dalembert and Brand for Tracey McGrady. And if Houston doesn't want Brand send Iguodala and Sammy.

No kidding! McGrady doesn't even have to come to Philly. You just want his contract which expires this season. Then you get rid of Brand's noose also. If they don't want Brand?

Give them Iguodala's noose. I am a big Andre Iguodala fan but he does not fit into this team's system or any system they have tried before. He is not becoming the star I thought he would either. Which I believe is the problem he has fitting in. We all over rated him. Oh he has some great skills but he also lacks what it takes to be a superstar and probably always will. He would be a great fit on a team that already has superstars. Which that isn't Houston either but that can be their problem.

Ironically they would probably take him for the same reasons we want to keep him. He would be an upgrade for them. Funny thing is they are 19 and 13 and have a better

Continue reading "Bringing Up The Bottom (DEC 30)"


Andy Natalie

A Teaser In Philly (76ers Dec 16 loss) posted by Andy Natalie

I would like to say that the Sixers gave a cavalier effort but that is just part of the story.

 

You see I don't believe it is an effort problem with this basketball team. For one I think they get out-coached and have since Larry Brown left town. And Eddie Jordan and Mo Cheeks are not horrible coaches but they are one trick ponies. They do not appear to be able to build a plan around the talent and the personnel.

Now ironically Larry Brown is also like that but he has the clout and the whining /temper tantrum abilities to make his boss get the personnel to match his system. He also believes in defense.

That brings us to the Sixers vs Cavaliers contest on Wednesday. The Sixers put up a respectable 101 points. But the Cav's and LeBron James scored 108 points.

The POSITIVES:

  • Iguodala had a good night scoring 26 and he had a solid 7 rebounds
  • Thaddeus Young continued his march toward All - Stardom with 16 points and 10 rebounds
  • Iverson had a solid night with 16 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists
  • Jrue Holiday played again at PG and had a nice 9 assists to go with 9 points
  • Elton Brand had settled in to his bench role. He had a respectable 11 points and 7 rebounds in 33 minutes
Continue reading "A Teaser In Philly (76ers Dec 16 loss)"


Andy Natalie

Misery Loves Company (Sixers Finally Win Dec 14) posted by Andy Natalie

The 76ers finally find a team that they can beat up on. The Sixers beat the Warriors 117 to 101 at home in the Wa-Cove!

The 76ers play a strong 1st and 2nd quarter and a solid 3rd and 4th to stop their long losing streak. The Warriors had a horrific 3rd quarter for a relatively easy win.

Thaddeus Young was the stud of the night with 26 points and 14 rebounds. He even had 4 assists. Jrue Holiday and Allen Iverson made a nice back court tandem also. Iverson had a very good 20 points and 4 assists. While Holiday had a solid 15 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists.

Samuel Dalembert had another good night for him. He had 13 boards, 12 points, and 4 blocks. A nice added benefit was Elton Brand and Willie Green off the bench. Brand 11 points, 7 boards. Green had 14 points.

All totaled the Sixers had 7 players in double digits.


PHILADELPHIA 76ERS
STARTERS MIN FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A OREB DREB REB AST STL BLK TO PF +/- PTS
Thaddeus Young, F 40 12-21 1-2 1-1 5 9 14 4 3 1 3 2 +27 26
Jrue Holiday, PG 39 7-14 1-5 0-0 3 4 7 6 3 0 3 4 +20 15
Samuel Dalembert, C 29 6-9 0-0 0-0 5 8 13 1 0 4 2 2 +16 12
Allen Iverson, SG 32 7-10 0-0 6-8 1 1 2 4 0 0 1 2 +23 20
Andre Iguodala, SG 35 4-20 0-5 6-6 3 5 8 2 3 1 4 2 +6 14
BENCH MIN FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A OREB DREB REB AST STL BLK TO PF +/- PTS
Elton Brand, PF 17 5-7 0-0 1-1 5 2 7 1 0 0 3 3 +2 11
Primoz Brezec, C 2 0-0 0-0 1-2 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 2 -2 1
Jason Kapono, SF 7 0-1 0-0 0-0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 2 -9 0
Royal Ivey, PG 8 1-2 0-0 2-2 0 1 1 2 1 0 0 2 -2 4

Continue reading "Misery Loves Company (Sixers Finally Win Dec 14)"


Andy Natalie

Yet Another 4th Quarter Flushed Down the Crapper By the 76ers (DEC 10) posted by Andy Natalie

The other day Andre Iguodala insisted that the Sixers were not as bad as their record indicated. And then last night (WEDS) they preceded to drop a basketball game to the lowly Detroit Pistons, who are as bad as their record indicates.

The Pistons come from behind in the 4th and win 90 to 86 over the inconsistent 76ers. Now mind you the Pistons are a bad 9 wins and 12 losses while the 76ers 5 and 17. So you be the judge of if you agree with Andre.

Personally, I love "Iggy Hop" but I do think the 76ers are a bad team. Yes they have their moments and they have some raw talent. And now they have the extra juice with the addition of Allen Iverson, the original A I. And there is some positive aspects of all of that.

But I think part of the problem is the ego. I think Andre and his team mates needs to look in the mirror and say "wow we stink". Are they capable of more? Perhaps. But that isn't who you are, that is who you might be! This is where I have a problem with Eddie Jordan and Andre's assessment.

Eddie, you need to stop with the it's coming along, we are getting better upbeat stuff. I don't get it? What was pre-season basketball for? You don't implement and entirely new concept that takes the whole franchise a season to learn. How about a little at a time?

You should have implimented base sets and the foundation and stuck with that and some standard sets until they can do that in their sleep. You then can compensate with a somewhat simplistic level of strategy with hard aggressive work. Out hustle your opponent on the basketball court. Which you should do anyhow. But that is very difficult when you are thinking too much about the system. Which is the entire point!

Continue reading "Yet Another 4th Quarter Flushed Down ..."


Andy Natalie

76ers Win and Lose At The Same Time (Dec 9) posted by Andy Natalie

  Hey welcome home Allen. And boy was it nice to see a packed house!

But in the end Denver schooled the Sixers to a 93 to 83 tune. Yeah they schooled them. You know coming into the season I thought this team could be better then a borderline playoff team. But they stink.

Yeah on paper some of the names scream "talent". But they fail the eye test. Andre Iguodala is a borderline All -Star with star talent. But he is not being used to his strengths and he has not improved in his weaknesses. Which neither is the end of the world. However something has to give. I would like to think that all Pros would like to improve but a Coaches job is to put players in position to succeed. Iguodala is a receiver and finisher.

Elton Brand is a brand name who has past his sale expiration date. We can only hope he just needs more time to come back from previous injuries. In the meantime? IF he could just help in the low post on both ends that would help.

Sammy D? He has skills and I thought with Brand, Dalembert would blossom as a solid center. He doesn't rebound enough and his defense is suspect at times. He is still somewhat young but he better grow up fast.

Thad Young is a legit star on the rise. I am not worried about him but he is the lone no brainer. I mean even Iguodala has been living on potential more than proven performance. Young has consistently improved and will continue.

Continue reading "76ers Win and Lose At The Same Time (Dec 9)"


Amari Harris

The Answer Returns! posted by Amari Harris

The Answer Returns!

 

It was crazy to see how emotional AI was over his recent signing with the Philadelphia 76ers.  It truly touched my heart.  But this isn’t just a sentimental acquisition. The Sixers could really benefit from bring back The Answer….

 

This is a young team with potential that could use a strong veteran presence such as Iverson.  He will bring instant credibility to a 5-14 Sixers team that is need of a spark.  Jrue Holliday (the Sixers 1st round pick this year) needs to absorb as much as he can from the iconic Iverson.  Iverson should move into a starting role, which is what he was looking for and what he deserved.  I want Iverson to win a championship just like a lot of other basketball fans but not at the cost of his dignity.  Do you really want this guy to come off the bench just to win a title?  This is not Daryl Armstrong.  This is not Tyron Lue.  This is not Derek Fisher.  This is Allen “Motherf&^*^)” Iverson, son!  The Answer!  This dude had one of the most popular shoes in NBA history.  He is the master of the “ Killer Crossover”!  And you want him to come off the bench?!  If he never wins a championship, Iverson will still be in the top 10 greatest players ever.  That fact alone requires that he be a starter as long as he’s on a team. 

 

I can’t wait to see the reaction when Iverson runs out of that tunnel for the first time.  It should be epic.   The Philly fans will definitely embrace Iverson in his return to the City of Brotherly Love.  And how great would the story be if AI and AI (Andre Iguodala) can sneak the Sixers in to that 7th or 8th seed? This is a dream scenario for both parties and I, for one, am going to be paying very close attention to this team. 

Continue reading "The Answer Returns!"


Andy Natalie

Iverson in Philly: The Sequel posted by Andy Natalie

Hey who didn't see this coming? Frankly it was the right move. For the right reasons too!

The harsh reality is Lou Williams is out for at least 8 weeks. The 76ers do not have a replacement on their roster. I mean Royal Ivey is not a legit back up who can take over the starting role. And Jrue Holiday is not a realistic option either. Jrue is a Rookie and he is a shooter. That is what he does and that is what he should be doing.

With Iverson on board you at least get a veteran who can play adequate point guard and he will get some assists even as a ball hog. He has average 6.2 assists over his career actually. Which compared to John Stockton or Magic that sucks. But Lou Williams was good for 5.1 thus far. Yes he is learning but he isn't going to be playing.

The following statement says it all:

"In light of the recent injury to Lou Williams, which will sideline him for close to eight weeks, we felt that Allen was the best available free agent guard to help us at this time," team president Ed Stefanski said.

Yeah he brings luggage galore. And yes this is about fannies in seats also. But at the end of the day you need to have some one play PG.

And come on folks we all know this is not a Championship team and theoretically you want them to lose to get a high pick. But you can't put just anyone at the point and stumble through the season.

Continue reading "Iverson in Philly: The Sequel"

Philadelphia 76ers News

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Raptors seek playoff redemption against Pacers (Yahoo Sports)

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From Yahoo Sports


76ers launch innovation lab at New Jersey training site (Yahoo Sports)

The Philadelphia 76ers are set to launch a lab designed to help local startup companies at their new training complex. The Sixers will integrate a 10,000 square-foot innovation lab at their new headquarters in Camden, New Jersey. Selected startups will have the opportunity to participate in core curriculum programs, including a speaker series and leadership training featuring executives from industry-leading companies. [read full article]

From Yahoo Sports


Jerry Colangelo insists he had no role in 76ers hiring son

CHICAGO (AP) Jerry Colangelo insists he had no role in the Philadelphia 76ers hiring his son, Bryan, as team president. [read full article]

From FOX Sports Digital


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 ESPN.com'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 devine@yahoo-inc.com 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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