Depending on how you view Kobe Bryant, Tuesday's night's performance to lift his Lakers to a key Game 5 win over the New Orleans Hornets was either one of the great playoff performances you'll see or a sign that he is disingenuous about everything. Bryant, of course, injured his knee in Game 4 trying to guard Willie Green, and was working around the clock to get healthy. But he also never got an MRI, and he certainly looked pretty healthy dunking over Emeka Okafor and then Carl Landry.
So what is it? Kobe's explanation was simple: he didn't want to waste time driving in LA's notorious traffic to get an MRI when there was no way he would sit out anyway.
"I didn't feel like it was broke or anything like that. If it was, it wouldn't have mattered anyway because I was going to play anyway. It would have been a waste of time -- go all the way up there [to a hospital] and do that and sit in 4 o'clock traffic for two hours. I don't know why you guys [press] are so concerned about an MRI. It's not like we would have told you the results anyway."
"It's not like you would have known anyway." Ha ha. Good one Kobe. Many others weren't so convinced. Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith said he was dogging it, trying to hide the embarrassment of getting crossed up by Green. TNT announcer Kevin Harlan noted that "we have not seen a limp, a stagger or an irregularity in this game." Hornets coach Monty WIlliams scoffed at the idea of him actually being hurt. Heck, even current players were questioning him on Twitter last night:
Kobe's ankle is NOT hurt...lol. There's no way u can dunk like that with a bad wheel!
I don't think Kobe's ankle is a factor anymore. Don't see him limping anymore after that dunk!
Ultimately, I wouldn't put it past Kobe to embellish an injury. I think he wasn't as hurt as one would have thought leading into this game. But given the Lakers' so-so play this series, wouldn't it be helpful for those underachieving to see their star "fighting through injury?"
In the end, I feel like this is what it was all about for Kobe. He probably felt good enough to play, and he wanted his teammates to see how important the moment was to him. Seeing as Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum killed New Orleans on the glass, I'd say the mission was accomplished.