clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Is Kobe Bryant’s ESPN series really an NBA playoff curse?

New, comment

When Bryant breaks down your game, your team begins to spiral, but most of that is common sense.

NBA: Playoffs-Houston Rockets at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kobe Bryant hasn’t played in an NBA game since 2016, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t played a role in the 2018 Playoffs. In fact, he’s been a horrible omen for the players unlucky to cross his path in his ESPN series Detail.

The future Hall of Famer has been breaking down specific players throughout the postseason in his special series, only to see them taste bitter defeat immediately afterward. This was on full display Tuesday night when Steph Curry, the player most recently profiled by the Black Mamba, saw his Warriors blow a double-digit fourth quarter lead in a series-evening loss to the Rockets. Curry himself had an uncharacteristic 10-of-26 shooting performance, including a miss on a desperation, game-tying three as the final horn sounded.

But Curry isn’t the only player to eat a pile of failure after getting Bryant’s breakout treatment this postseason. The series started its dive into the 2018 playoffs with Raptors’ guard DeMar DeRozan, who was able to stave off the Bryant curse by handling the Wizards in the first round. Then, Bryant’s power swung back on him in a massive way by dispatching top-seeded Toronto in a Eastern Conference semifinal sweep against the Cavaliers.

That shifted the focus to Utah rookie Donovan Mitchell in episode three. His Jazz team lasted just five games in its Western Conference semifinal vs. the Rockets. A look at Pelicans’ point guard Jrue Holiday came next, detailing how he powered New Orleans to a game three win against the Warriors. He’d go on to lose his next two games by 35 combined points to end the Pels’ season.

Episode five was a deep dive on LeBron James’ juggernaut play against the Raptors, so naturally he’d fall into an 0-2 hole against the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals immediately after. Fortunately for the three-time MVP, Bryant was able to correct his mistake by featuring Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum before game three of that series. Now it’s tied 2-2 and Tatum has combined for three total rebounds and two assists since his stint on Detail.

Is this an actual curse, or just common sense?

There’s no scientific explanation for the sudden downturn that follows after Bryant turns his watchful eye to a team in the playoffs. It’s almost certainly just a weird string of events akin to the “Madden Curse” that preyed on athletes in a sport that already had high injury rates. With Mitchell and Holiday, Bryant was analyzing underdogs whose days in the playoffs were numbered. James was staring down two games in Boston when he was profiled, a spot where the Celtics have been undefeated this postseason. Tatum and the C’s were underdogs when they faced James for games three and four in Cleveland.

That only leaves DeRozan and Curry as less-explainable features of the curse. DeRozan probably shouldn’t count, as his team won its playoff series immediately following his feature on Detail, though the Raptors sweep at the hands of the Cavaliers was certainly unexpected. Curry’s cold streak last night was uncharacteristic of him, but not totally out of left field — he’s been up and down since returning from an ankle injury, and had previously stunk in a game two loss to the Rockets.

So, in reality, you’ve got four expected losses, one Eastern Conference semifinal loss that came a full series after DeRozan was profiled, and Curry’s glitchy postseason 2018 play. That’s a fun series of coincidences, but it’s not quite a curse — at least, not until Bryant profiles James Harden and then watches him trip over himself in Houston like his talent had been drained by the Nerdlucks.