-- Tongue out, exaggerated follow-through, his right wrist cocked like you-know-who. It is too bad Michael Jordan did not play another year or two.
Someday, they might say he was Kobe-esque.
In a young career of clutch moments, Kobe Bryant delivered his most pulsating ending yet, sending a 26-foot radar through the net with 2.1 seconds left in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night, a three-pointer that resuscitated the once-lost Los Angeles Lakers.
No team had ever recovered from an 0-2 deficit in the finals to win a championship, and now the Lakers will not have to worry about becoming the first after Bryant sent this enrapturing thriller into overtime and then closed brilliantly, carrying Los Angeles to a 99-91 triumph.
He scored 14 of his 33 points in the game's final 17 minutes. He set up Shaquille O'Neal for a dunk in the opening moments of the extra period. He and O'Neal combined for all 10 in overtime, and suddenly the most feared one-two punch in the game had returned.
After O'Neal and Bryant had combined for 62 points, the Lakers were no longer facing a week on the road in Detroit, their odds of getting back home long and uncertain.
Bryant had seized a game that briefly belonged to the Lakers before the Pistons found their rhythm and most of the second-half rebounds, and it all began after he almost shot the Lakers out of the game late in the fourth quarter.
Taking his last timeout with 10 seconds remaining, Coach Phil Jackson designed a play for Bryant in which Luke Walton would dribble to the top and hand off to Bryant. It worked perfectly, with Bryant taking two dribbles and elevating.
Detroit Coach Larry Brown called a three-point play by O'Neal with 35 seconds left the most important play of the game. The layup and free throw cut a six-point deficit to three, and gave Bryant a shot to win the game. O'Neal made 9 of 14 free throws, none bigger than his last.
Brown was taken to task for not fouling Bryant or O'Neal and at least putting one of them on the free throw line, instead of giving up a three-pointer in the game's waning seconds.
But he shot down the criticism as best he could, saying, "Are you allowed to win a game? Is that okay?"
When ABC came back from the commercial after Bryant's shot, it showed a montage of great Lakers clutch shots. Game 3 in 1970, when Jerry West hit more than a half-court prayer in a loss to New York. Magic Johnson's baby sky hook in the 1987 finals. Robert Horry's three-point heave against Sacramento in Game 4 of the 2002 Western Conference finals, a shot that turned a potential 3-1 deficit into a 2-2 series tie. And Game 5 against San Antonio last month, when Derek Fisher knocked down a twisting, turnaround at the buzzer to provide the impetus for knocking off the defending champions in Game 6.
The debate over which was more important and which was more breathtaking lingered long in the postgame news conference, with Bryant actually naming it second in his treasure trove, behind a shot he hit over Rip Hamilton in high school. It was unclear whether he was kidding or just tweaking the Pistons a bit more.
Either way, Walton created his own subplot, scoring seven points and delivering eight assists in 27 minutes. His father, NBA Hall of Famer Bill Walton, was in the stands, awed and proud at the same time.
And when Los Angeles had exorcised itself from a potential 0-2 hole, the Lakers' rookie forward was balling his fist, punching the air, listening to chants of "Lu-u-ke," like a certain Jedi knight in "Star Wars." He was the youngest star in a constellation of them Tuesday night in Los Angeles, the night Bryant cruelly stole one from the Pistons.
"He is just amazing," Walton said. "I've seen it before and I'll probably see it again. But it's still just amazing."