The Lakers had won three consecutive NBA titles, but they hardly looked like championship material.
They had just won 11 of their first 30 games. Shaquille O’Neal entered the season with an injured right toe, insisting he will “heal on company time.” Complacency also likely settled in among some wearing purple and gold.
But not Kobe Bryant.
As the Lakers began the 2002-03 season with a 23-23 record, Bryant went on a nine-game tear where he scored at least 40 points. In related news, the Lakers went 7-2 during that stretch. By season’s end, Bryant averaged a then career-high 30 points and 5.9 assists.
As the video of Bryant’s top plays in that season shows, many of his performances featured far too many difficult shots to count. That included alley-oop lobs, baseline dunks, spin moves in the lane, yada yada yada. They all became an endless blur, but one that was needed to overcome the Lakers’ poor start.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org