First things first: You don't get to miss more shots than anybody else in NBA history by being bad at basketball. That record would be Larry Hughes's if he didn't, y'know, suck at everything, and in this sense, the all-time missed-shots record is a perverse monument to Kobe Bryant's greatness. He missed more shots than anybody else in history because he was good enough to take all those shots, or good enough to get away with maybe taking more shots than he probably should have, which might as well be the same thing.
Then again, that the first great cumulative record of Kobe's career isn't for points, or shots made, or 30- or 40- or 50-point games or whatever, but for misses, is delightfully fitting. It captures, neatly, Kobe's place in history: as the most self-conscious and nakedly aspirational of all the all-time greats. Michael Jordan is Michael Jordan because he could not be anybody else; Kobe Bryant is Kobe Bryant because he could not be Michael Jordan, but never stopped trying. That might seem like a putdown, and if it works as one, Kobe probably deserves it, but I'd be a liar if I denied finding something to admire in that 13,421 number. We should all be silly and liberated enough to fire up 13,421 bricks.
The Lakers lost 107-102 in Memphis last night. The key moment—where "key" can be understood to mean both "decisive" and "funniest"—came with 28 seconds remaining in the fourth, after they'd ground a 17-point deficit down to three, via a heroic 18-4 run spanning over six minutes of action. With the Grizzlies reeling and the game in the balance, the Lakers did this:
Which is just goddamn perfect. This is the ultimate expression of Byron Scott's "bad things are good" basketball philosophy: Needing either a three-pointer to tie or a quick high-percentage two to narrow the deficit and buy themselves an extra possession, the Lakers sorta drunkenly split the difference by having their worst jump-shooter take the worst imaginable shot, with 17 seconds left on the shot clock. Kobe, who'd hit two deep threes during the comeback, never even touched the ball. That is amazing.
What's particularly wonderful about it is that, for most of the night, and particularly during that big run, the Lakers played essentially ordinary, sane 2014 NBA basketball. They shot threes when they were available (although they still have a weird disdain for the corner three, which is the best shot in basketball); they attacked the hoop; they shared the ball. And then, in the most crucial moment, with victory one or two smart possessions away: That. That glorious shot. Their comic timing is exquisite.
It's like they stored up their insanity for maximum impact, like in a video game where you hold down a button to charge up your special attack, and then blasted it directly into their own feet. It's like if Jay Cutler drove the Bears 97 yards in the final two minutes of a game, got to the two-yard line with one second left, then punted the ball into the stands on the final play. It's like if a presidential candidate ran a by-the-book campaign for eight months, then whipped his dick out and played it like a banjo on live television in the final debate. I could not love it more.
To the left is the only shot chart that matters from last night's game. That's Jordan Hill's shot chart for the final 30 seconds of the game. It belongs in the Louvre.
The Lakers are 1-6 now, and in New Orleans tonight against the Pelicans and the whirlwind of terror called Anthony Davis. If you can't get excited to see how old-ass Kobe Bryant, useless Carlos Boozer, and resolute reality-denier Byron Scott will handle that on the second leg of a back-to-back, I don't think we can be friends.
Photo via Getty