Kobe Bryant's absolutely official count for game-winning shots this season is six. If you count his go-ahead bucket with 28 seconds remaining in an eventual 100-95 win over the Mavs (I do), the number hits seven. Either way, it's impressive.
In the newest issue of ESPN The Magazine, Ric Bucher caught up with The Mamba to talk about the secret to game-winning shots. As you can see in this excerpt, Kobe doesn't consider the matter all that complicated.
- "I light a bunch of candles, sacrifice some rats and have a séance... No, really, there's no special preparation. I haven't done the 3-2-1 thing since I was a kid. I don't study tape of guys hitting game-winners. No mental imagery. No seeing the ball go through the hoop or anything like that... The shots I make are often ones I've taken earlier in the game. It's just a matter of reading the D and seeing what it's giving you."
Later, Kobe downplays the notion of heavy pressure involved with taking these shots.
- "I've always liked those situations. All I have to do is make one shot, and we win? Cool. People get scared of what others will say or the fallout from missing, but that doesn't make me nervous. Once in 2002 against Boston, I pump-faked Paul Pierce because I knew he'd bite. But the pump cost me the rime to get the shot off. Fortunately, I got another chance against the Hornets a few nights later and redeemed myself. "It sounds crazy, but I really just go out there and do it - after I burn the incense, of course."
Like I said. Easy, assuming you happen to be Kobe Bryant and one of the all-time greatest.
But that's really how you have to approach the scenario. Having heard Derek Fisher, Robert Horry and others with a clutch proclivity discuss these moments, the commonality of their mindsets is a willingness to truly accept the results, make or miss. They obviously care if the ball goes down, but at the same time, they don't care, and that's the way it has to be in order to come up big. Emotions will only get in the way.
Odd question: Would anybody have been offended if Kobe was sacrificing rats in order to play hero in the final seconds? I mean, we are talking about rats. They carry disease, leave droppings, and can be mean. Sure, they occasionally make good pets and you occasionally run across one that's a whiz in the kitchen, but by and large, I've always felt they're largely perceived by society at large as expendable. There's a reason dudes who roll on other dudes in court are referred to as "rats." Would Kobe be residing in PETA's cross hairs if dead rodents were part of his iconic equation?