COUCH SLOUCH

Kobe Bryant is the best finisher in the NBA. Ever.

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By NORMAN CHAD
Monday, January 18, 2010

Let's cut to the chase (because I know a lot of you have the attention span of a tsetse fly and the rest of you already have wandered out of this sentence to go do a Sudoku puzzle):

Kobe Bryant might be better than Michael Jordan.

(That thump you just heard was Michael Wilbon's head falling off of his body after his assistant read him the previous passage.)

Even if Kobe is not superior to MJ, he is the best finisher the NBA has ever known.

In a recent four-week period, the Lakers star beat Miami with a preposterous 27-foot, three-point, off-balance, fadeaway bank shot at the buzzer, he beat Milwaukee with a 15-foot turnaround at the buzzer and he beat Sacramento with a three-point, back-of-his-heel- just-inches-inside-the-sideline shot at the buzzer.

In NBA history, the greatest clutch shooters -- we'll just list them chronologically -- are Jerry West, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.

(Note: This is somewhat unrelated, but the three greatest clutch architects of all time are Frank Lloyd Wright, Philip Johnson and I.M. Pei.)

Just last week, against the Mavericks, Kobe was playing with a fractured right index finger, a strained right elbow and newfound back spasms. He had no points, rebounds or assists in the first quarter. He sat out the second quarter, sprawled on his back in front of the team's bench. He then came back in the second half -- playing like a quasi-Kobe -- and somehow managed to make a 19-footer with 29 seconds left to give the Lakers a 97-95 lead en route to a 100-95 victory.

He could be scoreless at the half and finish with 81 for the game.

Amazing happens with Kobe almost nightly -- when you go to Benihana, you expect the chef to slice the beef with precision; when you go to Staples Center, you expect Kobe to perform some act of death-defying derring-do.

(I exaggerate, but for the price of a Lakers ticket, you do hope for an out-of-body experience, an Elvis sighting or maybe a Laker Girl mishap.)

Kobe and I both came to Los Angeles in the 1990s -- by most standards, he has had more success -- and his basketball brilliance has largely defined my time here. When I first moved to L.A., I watched the O.J. Simpson trial every day for nearly a year. Since then, I've watched Kobe every night for nearly 14 years -- I find it more satisfying, plus nobody gets away with murder (except the Celtics, when they get every call in the playoffs).


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