The jaw-jutting, finger licking legend officially returned to the Los Angeles hardwood tonight in dramatic fashion — an excited crowd, countless camera flashes and Darth Vader’s theme song welcomed him onto the court.
Coming off his achilles injury, Kobe Bryant looked human for once. He air balled his first shot, he tossed passes that weren’t open and he missed a couple free throws. His stat line read nine points, eight rebounds, four assists and eight turnovers.
Laker Nation wanted a triple double return. Two nights ago, an NBA TV anchor joked the Black Mamba might drop 81 again. That didn’t happen. The Toronto Raptors (7-12) showed up to win and spoiled Kobe’s homecoming by comfortably cruising to a 106-94 win.
Raptors’ starters Amir Johnson, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry posted dominant figures: 32, 26 and 23 points, respectively.
On the other hand, no Laker starter scored double digits; they totaled 23 points. It was the Los Angeles bench that kept the team afloat — all five bench players scored double figures. Xavier Henry played almost half the minutes of Kobe and scored almost double the amount of points.
Postgame, Kobe said he would be watching game tape for the duration of the night and Coach Mike D’Antoni noted that Kobe’s performance wasn’t unexpected.
Judging his first game back, Kobe’s doing work. He didn’t play scared. He even attempted to draw a charge. And in the press conference, he talked like the classic Black Mamba that Laker Nation admires. He calmly sat in front of reporters and flashed a few smiles.
The nonchalant attitude he displayed to the press may have been an act, but I think that alone should have every other NBA team scared. He said he “played like horse sh*t,” he called himself a failure, he graded his 27 minutes as an F, yet he’s obviously still having fun.
As long as he enjoys the game and can find the bottom of the net, he’ll continue to find unique ways to elongate his career. Expect nothing less.