NBA Finals Game 1: The Kobe Show

For as long as I can remember, my friend Jim, a diehard Lakers fan, and I have talked NBA basketball on a regular basis. And when I say regular basis, I mean a minimum five hours a week during the regular season, closer to 10 hours a week during the playoffs. He's the only person I know that battles addiction to the NBA League Pass just like I do.

And when you're talking NBA hoops with Jim, there is one thing you can count on every time: before long, the conversation will veer off in the direction of the Los Angeles Lakers.

At some point during the 2005-07 era for the Lakers, right after Shaq left and before Kobe got any help, we started using the phrase "The Kobe Show" to describe certain Laker games. Basically, if Bryant was forced to do everything for the Lakers that night (which was every night during that era), the game became "The Kobe Show."

Back then, depending on the tone of the conversation, "The Kobe Show" had both positive and negative connotations. If Kobe dropped for 50, it was "The Kobe Show." If Kobe took 20 shots in the second half and the Lakers lost, it was "The Kobe Show." For better or worse, if Kobe took over the game, it was immediately referred to as "The Kobe Show."

Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday was a callback to the old "The Kobe Show" days in all the right ways.

Right from the beginning, Bryant asserted himself against the Magic, taking nine shots in the first quarter. Normally, as we saw from 2005-07, Kobe taking nine shots in a quarter is hardly a recipe for success for L.A.

Game 1 was different. As crazy as it seems, Kobe didn't seem like he was trying to do too much in the first quarter. His shots came within the flow of the offense for the most part. To me, and pretty much anyone who watched the game, it looked like Courtney Lee had no chance against Kobe last night. The Lakers coaching staff realized it, and they kept feeding the mismatch.

And despite an underwhelming statistical quarter by Bryant's standards, just 6 points on 3-of-9 shooting in the first quarter, the groundwork was laid for the return of "The Kobe Show." Kobe had the matchup he wanted, the rest of the Lakers players and coaching staff could feel it, and when Kobe stepped back on the floor in the second quarter, he made sure Orlando would feel it, too. Bryant scored 12 points in the second quarter and helped give the Lakers a 10-point halftime lead.

In the third quarter, "The Kobe Show" was taken to new heights. Bryant outscored the Magic by himself 18-15 in the third, evoking the inevitable "Mama, there goes that man" from Mark Jackson. He was relentless, demanding the ball from teammates, and scoring at will against whoever the Magic decided to throw at him.

Kobe became the first player since Michael Jordan shrugged his way past Portland to score over 35 points in the first 36 minutes of an NBA Finals game.

When it was all said and done, Kobe had amassed one of the greatest games in NBA Finals history, becoming just the fourth player in Finals history to finish the game with 40/8/8.

There were plenty of other storylines from Game 1: the Magic shooting under 30%; Dwight Howard only scoring one field goal; Andrew Bynum showing signs of life with 9 points and 9 rebounds; Jameer Nelson coming out on fire in the first five minutes of the second quarter, only to look like a player who hadn't played in four months after those five minutes; Lamar Odom and Paul Gasol playing their usual steady games; Luke Walton actually making a play or two.

But in the end, Game 1 was all about Kobe. The Magic never trapped him. They never denied him the ball. They never knocked him down.

Like the rest of us, all they could do was stand around and marvel at his greatness.

"The Kobe Show" was back, if only for one night.

And somewhere, Jim, like every other member of Laker Nation, went to bed with a big smile on his face.

Visit Sports Central after every NBA Finals game to read Scott Shepherd's immediate reaction to the game. You can also follow Scott before, during, and after every NBA Finals game on Twitter at

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