Kobe Bryant’s 2005-06 NBA season stands out as one of my favorite individual years for any athlete in any sport. Moving into the second year post-Shaq era, there was no hope on sight. And with players like Kwame Brown, Chris Mihm and the immortal Smush Parker as teammates, I’m surprised that the man who would be known as The Black Mamba did not ask any of them to commit seppuku on the court after missing a pass or blowing a defensive assignment for thousandth time.
But all was not lost for Bryant. Sure, the Lakers were a crappy team, but I don’t care about wins or losses as much as I do watching amazing individual performances (preferably to spite others) and the kicks they wore. After two seasons under Nike as the guy who wore the Air Zoom Huarache, Bryant moved on to the excellent Nike Zoom Kobe 1. His solo act on the court was equally stellar, averaging 35 points a game that included the famous 81-point performance against the Toronto Raptors and 62-point outing in three quarters against the Dallas Mavericks.
Despite the garbage lineup he had to deal with, the Lakers won 45 games and faced off against the Phoenix Suns in the first round. Steve Nash would go on to win his second straight MVP and face a guy that some felt should have won in Bryant. So Mamba proceeded to do everything he can to prove that point, leading the Lakers to an early 2-1 series lead.
On April 30, 2006, Mamba had one of his signature moments. The Suns had the game won but Bryant made a tough floater to force overtime in the fourth quarter and hit a buzzer beater in the extra session that still gets replayed to this day. The kicks he had on? A PE version of the Nike Zoom Kobe 1.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, they would lose the next three games and get knocked off in gut-punching fashion, but who cares? It was an amazing season that was complimented by great kicks.