Ready to Rumble
Kobe and DWade settle things like men. In the ring.
In this corner, standing 6-feet-6 and weighing in at 205 pounds, Kobe Bryant.
In the opposite corner, at 6-feet-4 and tipping the scales at 220, Dwyane Wade.
Gentlemen, I want a clean fight. No funny business. Flash, that goes for you too. I won’t tolerate any of those infamous flagrant fouls. You got away with it at the 2012 NBA All-Star game. Not here though, it’s not happening. Black Mamba, no taunting, keep the trash-talk to a minimum.
The scene was essentially set Sunday afternoon at Staples Center as Wade and Bryant met for the first time since an altercation last week resulted in a broken nose, concussion and clear protective facemask for No. 24. And while the Los Angeles Lakers‘ 93-83 victory over the Miami Heat was entertaining, the Wade-Bryant individual match-up stole the show and played out similar to scheduled 12-round heavyweight title fight.
This slug fest, however, did not go the distance.
Bryant scored 18 of his 33 points in the first quarter. His flurry of punches early wore Wade down and the highly-anticipated fight ended with a Bryant’s technical knockout in Round 10. Wade struggled throughout. His exited at the 5:14 mark of the fourth quarter when he fouled out of the game with 16 points on 7-of-17 shooting and five turnovers.
That said, let’s get to the action. Here’s a round-by-round review of the fist-a-cuffs.
*** ROUND 1 ***
Bryant charges from his corner and comes out swinging. Haymakers, mind you. Rightfully so after being blatantly hacked by Wade in the League’s marquee gathering at Amway Center in Orlando on Feb. 26. He converts a layup, drains a 14-footer and sinks a free-throw. Seven points over a three-minute stretch. Wade reels from the combination, but manages to recover. Score is tied, 7-7, early in the first quarter.
“He knew I was going to be ready regardless,” Bryant said
*** ROUND 2 ***
Bryant knocks down a pair of fade-away jumpers from the free-throw line over the out-stretched arm of Wade midway through the first quarter. Bryant staggers his counterpart with the body blows. And the Lakers stagger the Heat, taking a 16-9 lead and forcing Miami coach Erik Spoelstra to call a timeout at the six-minute mark.
*** ROUND 3 ***
The bell, or whistle, sounds and Wade is met by a chorus of boos as he steps to the middle of the ring, or court in this case. Bryant is in attack mode, of course. Wonder if he can keep up this pace? It’s a long fight. He hits three jumpers. Wade looks to his corner with a puzzled look on his face. The final result: Kobe & Co. take a 28-20 lead at the end of the first quarter.
“Bryant set the tone,” Spoelstra said. “He was very efficient to start, very aggressive, and from that point, we were just playing catch-up the entire game.”
*** ROUND 4 ***
Trailing on the scorecard, Wade shows some fight midway through the second quarter. A three-pointer is his first field goal in nearly 12 minutes. Bryant answers with a pair of free-throws to put an end to any momentum. Wade throws up a brick from beyond the three-point arc. A turnover follows. He’s wearing down. Bryant’s revenge-minded game-plan is coming together. Lakers take a 50-38 advantage at halftime.
*** ROUND 5 ***
Seemingly sensing defeat, Wade swings for the fences. He knows a knockout is needed. Three assists to start the second half and a floater in the lane helps cut the deficit to with 6:22 left in the third quarter. The cagey veteran apparently has something left in the tank.
*** ROUND 6 ***
Bryant picks Wade’s pocket on the defensive end of the floor toward the end of the third quarter. The jab stings the jaw of Wade, frustrates him. He retaliates with a low blow. Some pushing and shoving ensues and the ref breaks up the combatants as the two head down to the other end of the court. Kobe knocks sinks a 20-footer, and minutes later, the Lakers lead 71-62 to start the fourth.
“I got hit in the face a couple of times tonight, and it hurt even with the mask,” Bryant said.
*** ROUND 7 ***
Wade’s corner urges him to put Bryant away. Leaving things in the judge’s hands will result in defeat. He responds with an assist on a Norris Cole three-pointer. A mid-range shot from Wade falls. A jumper has the Heat within striking distance, down 79-70 with 6:50 remaining on the clock.
*** ROUND 8 ***
It’s now or never for Bryant. If he lets his worthy opponent believe he has a chance to win this fight, it could prove costly. Accordingly, Wade fouls Steve Blake, his fourth of the game. With some fancy footwork, using the ring to his advantage, the hardwood that is, Bryant baits Wade his fifth foul at the 6:15 mark of the fourth quarter.
*** ROUND 9 ***
The end is near. Wade has no defense for Bryant’s barrage of punches. Wade appears a step slower. The beating he took in the previous rounds has taken its toll. Slightly more that a minute later, he picks up his sixth foul when he encounters a meeting with Andrew Bynum.
“I don’t foul out much,” Wade said. “I guess I had the red flag on me today, but you’re not going to get me to comment on the referees. I like my money in my pocket.”
*** ROUND 10 ***
Bryant delivers the final blow, of course, scoring six consecutive points. Wade and the Heat hit the canvas hard. The ref raises Bryant’s hand and straps the proverbial championship belt around his waist after a hard-fought victory, a 10-point margin for the Lakers.
“Kobe is probably (bothered) about his nose and he wants to go hard,” Bynum said.
Bryant did just that Saturday: He went hard from the opening bell until the ref waived his hands to stop the scuffle and put Wade out of his misery. Hopefully, for the promoters’ sake which in this case is Commissioner David Stern, there will be an all-important rematch between Bryant and Wade in the NBA Finals.