Kobe Bryant is a loser on Christmas
Of course, on Friday Bryant can reach the .500 plateau on Xmas if the Lakers beat the Cavaliers--and LeBron and Shaq--at Staples Center in one of the league’s marquee games. The other big match-up: Boston Celtics at the Orlando Magic.
This will be the Lakers and Kobe’s 11th straight Christmas game. (I knew a Florida businessman named Edward "Buddy" LeRoux, a Celtics trainer during the Bill Russell-era in the 1960s, who told me he never had Christmas off till he left the NBA.)
The league has long offered up rivalries in holiday games, and if you look back at who the Lakers have played on Christmas, it’s a bit like the NBA version of an archaeological dig, one that reveals rivalries of long ago. On Christmas in 1999 the Lakers, then on the cusp of the Kobe-Shaq three-peat dynasty, played the Spurs—the other team of this decade--followed by Xmas battles against Portland, Philadelphia (rematch of the 2001 NBA Finals), Sacramento (Webber-Bibby-Divac-Stojakovic-Christie-Turkoglu), Houston, three contests against Miami and a former Laker center named O’Neal, Phoenix (D’Antoni’s seven-seconds-to-shoot team), and last year against the Celtics.
Here’s a snapshot of the Kobe-era Xmas games:
2008: Lakers 92, Celtics 83. Lakers end Boston’s 19-game winning streak and, in a sense, the championship torch is passed in mid-season.
2007: Lakers 122, Suns 115. No D in this game. Kobe has 38 points, Andrew Bynum adds 28, and the new look Lakers stretch their wings.
2006: Heat 101, Lakers 85. The Lakers are flat and D-Wade pours in 40 points.
2005: Heat 97, Lakers 92. Kobe and Lamar Odom miss three-pointers late and the Heat holds on.
2004: Heat 104, Lakers 102. Kobe misses a three-pointer in overtime. Kobe gets 42 points, but Shaq gets the win.
2003: Rockets 99, Lakers 87. Kobe has a miserable shooting night: nine for 26.
2002: Sacramento 105, Lakers 99. It’s a modest revenge for Kings fans, given that the Lakers eliminated Sacto in seven grueling games in the playoffs that spring.
2001: Lakers 88, 76ers 82. Shaq is out with an injury, Kobe has injured ribs and scores only 12, while AI pours in 31, but somehow the Lakers overcome a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
2000: Portland 109, Lakers 104. Shaq and Kobe combine for 61 points, but a late offensive foul call on Kobe nullifies a potential three-point play.
1999: Lakers 99, Spurs 93. Shaq gets 32 as the Lakers edge the defending champs.
1996: Lakers 108, Suns 87. Shaq drops 26 while Kobe, then 18 years old, plays only five minutes and is scoreless. Let’s assume he was watching and learning.
Photo: Lakers Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom battle Boston’s Kendrick Perkins for a rebound in the Lakers’ win on Christmas Day 2008. Photo credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times.