x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Kobe Bryant is not fooling anyone with lip service

Anyone who knows Bryant realises it would mean plenty to him to lead the league in scoring at age 33.

Kobe Bryant will tie with mentor Michael Jordan if he wins a sixth NBA championship for Lakers.
Kobe Bryant will tie with mentor Michael Jordan if he wins a sixth NBA championship for Lakers.

Perverse, it may be, but pleasure can be derived from listening to players who are trying to say the right thing when they so clearly do not mean it.

Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers and Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder are talking down the NBA scoring race in the final days of the season.

Naturally, when asked, Bryant acted like winning a third scoring title, in his 16th season, would mean little. "Not very important," he said, staring at the floor.

OK, slight pause here for the laughter to subside. Anyone who knows Bryant realises it would mean plenty to him to lead the league in scoring at age 33.

Does he want to win it as much as a sixth NBA championship? Of course not. Six rings would equal the total won by Michael Jordan, his idol/nemesis. He will never match Jordan's 10 scoring titles.

Bryant and Durant shared the same floor in Los Angeles on Sunday, a game the Lakers won 114-106 in double overtime.

Durant scored 35 points and Bryant 26, and the younger player seized a microscopic lead in scoring: he has 27.906 points per game to Bryant's 27.862.

Durant has two games left, home to Sacramento tonight and Denver tomorrow. Bryant has one left, on Thursday at Sacramento.

No scoring race has ended closer than 0.4 points since 1978 when San Antonio's George Gervin edged Denver's David Thompson. In their final games, Gervin scored 63 points and Thompson 73. Not that winning a scoring title was important.