This should’ve marked a time when Bryant’s creaky knees continued to stay wobbly. Instead, an offseason procedure in Germany ensured they stayed fresh. This should’ve marked a time when Bryant would sit out because of a throbbing concussion. Instead, Bryant still played while wearing a plastic mask. This should’ve marked a time when Bryant would experience his demise. Instead, Bryant maintained his dominance.
The Lakers’ 2011-12 season featured things far from pretty, ranging from the nixed Chris Paul trade, Lamar Odom getting shipped, Pau Gasol’s reduced role, a reduced training camp stemmed from the league lockout and coach Mike Brown struggling to replace Phil Jackson.
But as the video above shows, Bryant’s play remained beautiful to watch. He still ranked among the NBA’s leaders with his 27.9 points (second), 5.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists (25th) in 38.5 minutes (fourth). He dropped at least scored at least 30 points in 24 games and at least 40 points in five games. Bryant eventually eclipsed teammate and former adversary Shaquille O’Neal for fifth place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
Bryant continued to fulfill his usual job description of game winners, step-back fadeaways and drives to the basket through difficult circumstances. They went beyond the swarming defenses. Bryant entered the season with a torn ligament in his right wrist. Bryant responded by going on a four-game tear where he scored at least 40 points. He suffered a concussion and a broken nose during the All-Star game. Bryant still scored at least 30 points in the next three contests. He entered Game 6 of the Lakers’ first-round series against the Denver Nuggets fighting intestinal flu symptoms. Bryant answered by scoring 31 points on 13-for-23 shooting.
The Lakers didn’t always reach a healthy dynamic between balancing Bryant’s brilliance, Pau Gasol’s post play and Andrew Bynum’s growth. But with all the negative circumstances and injuries piling on, Bryant still put on a show.