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Laker Lore: Kobe Bryant hits 2006 Game Winner against Phoenix Suns

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6.1 seconds on the clock. Overtime. Kobe Bryant methodically advances a dribble up-court with the cavalry in front of him, reading his every move. Despite knowing the future, Raja Bell and Boris Diaw are unable to stop it from arriving.

Rewind in time to a jump ball tipped by the Lakers’ Luke Walton, rescued valiantly by Kobe Bryant from landing out of bounds. Bryant cradles Spalding’s finest with his left hand, slinks back to his right, pacing himself down the court in Swiss watch-like precision. There is no time to plan and reflect, only act. Every dribble counting more than the last one. Zero margin of error.

Raja Bell rushes to fortify the defenses against this lone adversary, heart rate at full throttle. But Bryant is already past the drawbridge and the moat, the castle has been breached! Backup arrives as Boris Diaw senses impending doom from the fiery catapult about to launch. Doomsday.

Nash’s front lines attempt to smother this renegade uprising to no avail. 1.7 seconds on the clock, Bryant rises above the resistance and takes a shot. The last chance leaves Bryant’s finger tips… Without a hint of hesitation. Breathes are held by both figurative armies as fate floats though the air. Time slows to a crawl momentarily, then returns at mach speed. The jumper pierces through the net and an earthquake-like tremor is felt at the epicenter that is Staples Center. Los Angeles celebrates the spectacle of a victory instantaneously! Roars of ‘MVP’ burst across the seams of their coliseum.

General Phil Jackson remains stoic, waiting for final confirmation the shot counted before time went out. Yet, the Phoenix Suns have already left the court, deflated, morally and physically. The shot they saw coming but could do nothing about. Steve Nash leaves immediately, as the rest of squad follows suit sans Tim Thomas. Who remains bewildered in disbelief at what has transpired. A tipped off ambush that still results in losing ground.

Eventually Nash’s well-trained Suns would miraculously steal victory from the Mamba’s Viper, sending a year of Bryant’s prime back to the dungeon. Tiring out the will of the Lakers fight, forcing them to push a boulder uphill until they could push no longer. Rolling them back to the darkness of winning battles but losing the war in despair…

Yet, the vulture looming was still three games away from feeding. That night, Kobe Bryant’s Lakers owned a 3-1 lead as the underdog #7th seed against the disciplined #2 seed. A whole generation of Laker caught in a drunk haze of triumph, dreaming of the possibilities.

Check out more NBA coverage in the NBA Category section! Features include the question, Is an NBA Championship ring worth an Achilles? A look back at Kevin Durant taking the court for the Golden State Warriors at the 2019 NBA Finals.

Nir Regev is the founder of The Natural Aristocrat. You can directly contact him at [email protected] for coverage consideration, interview opportunities, or general comments.

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