In the best Tom Cruise “who’s coming with me” voice he could muster, Kobe Bryant stood center court at American Airlines Arena feverishly trying to convince his teammates as much as all the world that all is not lost for him and his L.A. Lakers mates.
Following Friday night’s last second, come-from-behind victory by the Dallas Mavericks, the two-time defending champs now find themselves in a 3-0 hole and on the brink of elimination. History will further tell you that no NBA team has ever emerged from such depths of despair to claim ultimate victory. Then again, none of those teams boasted a completely dialed in Kobe Bryant.
“I don’t know, I might be sick in the head or crazy or thrown off or something like that because I still think we’re going to win this series,” said Bryant. “Let’s win on Sunday, go back home and see if they can win in LA.”
Just how long are the odds against LA winning four in a row? Consider Bryant’s would-be perfect, comeback scenario rests on reversing a trend the Mavs have already established. Dallas won the first two games of the series on the Lakers home floor, the second coming in relatively easy fashion.
Beyond an end to the latest LA dynasty, Sunday’s finale could also highlight the end to Bryant’s partnership with the all-time winningest coach in playoff history. Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who’s won three-peats with both Bryant and Michael Jordan, has insinuated he plans to retire at season’s end. He’s already won 11 NBA titles as a coach and has never trailed a playoff series 3-0.
“Kobe said to me this morning, ‘it seems like this is the kind of way your last season should be, that something like this comes up and it has to be another hurdle that you have to cross,’” said Jackson. “But it’s not me crossing it, it’s the team.”
And what of his teammates, faced with mastering an unprecedented deed have they truly bought into what Kobe’s selling?
“They don’t have a choice but to believe we can still win,” said Bryant. “When you think about it, it makes sense. I will explain it to them and it will make sense. Win the next game, go to LA, and there not going to beat us in LA to close it out. Than we come back here and see what happen.”