The Phoenix Suns lost to Kobe Bryant again tonight, but in the larger scheme of things the Suns have won the war. No matter how hard Kobe tries to erase May 6, 2006 from his memory banks, it will never go away.
"I don't like them," Bryant said of the Suns, in an article written by J.A. Adande after his 48-point game earlier this year. "Plain and simple, I do not like them. They used to whip us pretty good and used to let us know about it, and I. Will. Not. Forget. That."
Even though most of the guys from that team are gone?
"I. Don't. Care," Bryant said. "I won't let it go."
Adande supposes that such a vendetta can only be against a human being. And since the only remaining player from that Suns team still in purple-and-orange is Steve Nash, that it must be the little Canadian that Bryant hates.
Why else go for 48 against the Suns earlier this season, his highest scoring game since 2009, against the Suns as well. And we can't forget the 2010 playoffs where Kobe blew away his lifetime shooting percentages in the 6-game series, to the point that no player had shot as well from 15-22 feet in a playoff series in league history.
But Adande knows better. Or he is just wrong. And Kobe knows it.
The human being that Kobe Bryant has a vendetta against is Kobe Bryant himself. And the Suns can pat themselves on the back for that. Instead of drinking away his memories, Kobe tries to erase May 6, 2006 - in vain - by never giving the Suns a break in any games since he got the big guys Gasol and Bynum on his side.
May 6, 2006. Sigh. Smile.
What Kobe is trying to erase with all these awesome recent games is that fateful, constitution-quivering Game 7 of the 2006 playoffs where he quit on his team in the second half. He refused to shoot (only taking 1 shot after halftime), giving up on his guys who had fought so hard to try to win an improbable playoff series against the favored Suns only to lose the last 3 games in the series.
We Suns fans remember that series. The Nash trap. The Raja clothesline. The Tim Thomas 3-ball. And then the 31-point series-deciding blowout in Game 7.
What I remember most was Kobe quitting on his team in that second half of Game 7. He took only 3 shots, scoring 1 point.
He hated the question, his jaw tightening, his eyes flaring.
"C'mon," Kobe Bryant said [in 2010 before the Western Conference Finals against the Suns].
He hated the question, it touching on the deepest, darkest perceptions about his ethics and effort.
"Seriously," Bryant said.
He hated the question. But, two days before revisiting the setting of the alleged crime, he couldn't wait to answer it.
In the spring of 2006, did you tank the second half of Game 7 of the first-round series against the Phoenix Suns?
"People who say that are stupid," Bryant said. "That's just stupid."
Then why still hold the grudge all these years later? Why still care so much about a struggling Suns team, time and time again. Why not relax with the knowledge that he has 2 more rings since the dark days ended?
Because Kobe can't shake what he knows. He can't shake his deepest, darkest day. And no amount of great games against the Suns since then will ever make him feel better.
Even tonight, he scored another 36 points on a variety of unstoppable moves that only the Suns seem to see on a consistent basis anymore. Kobe's last 8 games before tonights 14-25 shooting performance?
The Suns are FOREVER in Kobe's head.
Sleep well tonight, Suns fans. Sleep well.
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