For once, Kobe Bryant could do less with more.
Bryant no longer needed to single-handedly carry the team. He no longer pleaded with the Lakers front office to acquire more talent. He no longer demanded that the once storied franchise to trade him.
Plenty of things changed for the Lakers, and mostly that involved Bryant’s sentiments toward the Lakers. His skepticism on whether the Lakers remained committed toward winning NBA championships evaporated once they acquired Pau Gasol Feb. 2008 from the Memphis Grizzlies in a trade the public then considered lopsided. Bryant backtracked from a viral video where he demanded the Lakers ship Andrew Bynum after seeing him grow the following year. Bryant also morphed from the Lakers’ most valuable player to the NBA’s most valuable player as he dialed back his scoring load and flourished with the added talent around him.
The Lakers may have eventually fallen in the 2008 NBA Finals to their arch nemesis in the Boston Celtics. But as the video showed above, Bryant offered many highlights that ensured the Lakers a 57-25 regular season record and a No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
Oh, Bryant still averaged 28.3 points per game, second best in the NBA, by scoring in miraculous ways. Against the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference semifinals, Bryant split a double team, threw a shot off the backboard and then converted on a putback. Against the Portland Trail Blazers in a regular season game, Bryant drove baseline and performed an up-and-under. Against the Dallas Mavericks, Bryant somehow made converted on a fast-break after performing a near 360 to elude a defender.
But Bryant also showcased plays that showed he didn’t need to solely carry the scoring burden. He blocked former Houston Rockets center Yao Ming. Bryant threw a behind-the-back pass to Luke Walton, who then lobbed one of his own to Lamar Odom for a fast-break dunk. Bryant dribbled behind-the-back and then performed a jump pass to an open Andrew Bynum.
Add it all up, and Bryant earned his first NBA regular season MVP award in a year where he was rewarded for doing less. But that didn’t make it any less magnificent to watch.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org