2012-13 Top 10 Moments: #7
Even in his 17th season, Kobe Bryant posted one of the better statistical years of his career, his field-goal percentage (46.3) at its highest since 2008-09 in large part because of his finishing ability at the rim.
Bryant provided several highlight reel dunks during the 2012-13 campaign, the spring in his legs looking nearly as spry as the once 18-year-old who won the 1997 NBA Dunk Contest.
In a Jan. 4 road contest at Staples Center facing the Clippers, and the Lakers trailing early in the first quarter, Bryant played the passing lanes perfectly, deflecting a pass from Chris Paul. He gathered the ball a little past midcourt, took two dribbles, took off from nearly outside the paint and slammed it home emphatically over Paul.
On the fourth game of their annual Grammy road trip in early February, the Lakers visited the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the first time. Deadlocked at 80 and the shot clock winding down, Bryant drove the lane and threw down a thunderous dunk in traffic over the Nets' Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace. The slam sparked a 12-3 run to finish the game, with L.A. ultimately winning 92-83 for its third straight victory at the time during a key stretch of road contests.
This all happening despite the club losing Pau Gasol minutes earlier to a foot injury that was later deemed a tear of the plantar fascia in his right foot and being without the services of Dwight Howard (torn labrum in right shoulder) and Metta World Peace (suspension).
Nearly a month later, déjà vu.
A close game, shot clock winding down and another emphatic dunk where Bryant took off from outside the restricted area – this time, cocking the ball back and throwing it down over Atlanta’s Josh Smith. He scored the final six points – two more free throws and a layup in traffic – and the home team made one final defensive stop to win 99-98 to put their record at .500 (30-30) for the first time since Dec. 28.