The Los Angeles Lakers put the ball in Kobe Bryant's hands down one with about six seconds remaining against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Bryant caught the inbound pass near half court, dribbled to his left against Andre Roberson, pump faked to get his defender in the air, and then fired off a winning attempt. The shot fell short, clanking off front iron and the Lakers were handed their 18th loss in 26 games.
The question then becomes, "is it still the right move to run hero ball plays for Kobe Bryant?" He's had incredible moments willing his team to victory during his career, but that hasn't been a successful venture during the 2014-15 season as he's had the worst shooting campaign of his career, in terms of percentage. But who else is supposed to take these shots? Baxter Holmes of ESPN Los Angeles says Jeremy Lin would like to shoot those shots too, but he gets why it's Kobe's job:
Lin gave a somewhat diplomatic response when asked about Bryant's final shot.
"How many game winners has he hit like that?" Lin asked, referencing Bryant. "I'm obviously rooting for him to hit that shot. I thought it was a good look. It was a very, very hittable shot. That's just a matter of time before he starts hitting those game winners."
Then Lin added, "I like game winners too. I would love to shoot some. But I get it. That guy is kind of the king of game winners. He's going to hit that shot. He'll figure it out. That's why he is who he is."
With 10 seconds or less and the opportunity to tie or take the lead in the fourth quarter or overtime this season, Kobe is just 1-of-6 from the field. The only other Lakers' player to take a shot in these situations is Nick Young, who is 1-of-2. His big make came against the San Antonio Spurs as the winning attempt. Lin hasn't been afforded the opportunity to be the hero in a situation like this.
For his career, Lin has only taken three shots in this situation and he hit one of them. That came with the Knicks back in the 2011-12 season when he burst onto the NBA scene. There's been a debate for years about whether or not it's better to run a play and risk a turnover on a pass or not executing and maybe not getting a shot off at all, as opposed to isolation basketball that ends in a long jumper for the star player. Kobe is usually the example for this argument, good or bad.
Dating back to the 2000-01 season (as far back as Basketball-Reference.com goes with the shot finder feature), Kobe is 37-of-133 (27.8 percent) with 10 seconds or less in the fourth quarter or overtime while attempting a shot to tie or take the lead. He certainly has the experience of taking that shot and has no problem living with the miss. He has no fear when it comes to that moment. Lin would also like to feel this moment and maybe it's on Byron Scott to find a better shot for whomever is putting up the attempt.
Ultimately though, in a lost season for the Lakers in which losses are more important for their future than getting wins, living with a low percentage shot right now if it's Kobe taking it isn't a terrible strategy. If he hits the shot, Lakers fans get to add another clip to the highlight reel of his career and enjoy the moment of heroics from him. If the Lakers lose, they get to move closer to securing their top 5 protected pick that is owed to the Suns.