It's your prototypical Catch 24 situation.
Kobe Bryant scores 61 points, one-ups Bernard King on the Madison Square Garden single-game scoring list, supplants Michael Jordan atop the Garden's invading conquerors' annals, and yet, the question is posed: Was Bryant's performance good for the Lakers?
Even with the 126-117 win over the Knicks, whose fans serenaded Bryant with "M-V-P!" chants, Bryant must fight perception rather than bask in the awe-inspiring reality. Earlier in the day the Western Conference-leading club learned that it would be without Andrew Bynum for 8-12 weeks due to a tear in his right knee's medial collateral ligament. Optimistic for a return in that timetable, one could forgive team officials for feeling deja vu all over again. It was just last season that Bynum bruised a bone in his left knee, was supposed to be back within 8-12 weeks but wound up missing the final 46 games.
Still, while similar circumstances might have derailed the postseason plans of other teams, Pau Gasol and Bryant paired to lead the franchise back to the NBA Finals. This season, Bryant, who had done his best Steve Nash impersonation of late with double-digit assists in four-straight games, has proven he can carry the Lakers at times and raise that scoring prolificacy to record-book levels. Monday night he was the face of efficiency shooting 19-of-31 from the field and hitting all 20 free throws. In the same box score, Gasol played an able Robin, going for 31 points against the Knicks' matador defense.
The other Nike will drop if Bryant tries to go for 61 every night. His one-man showmanship will be exposed as it was against the Celtics in last season's finals, and again he will fall short of the team title while garnering all the individual accolades and plaudits.
For now and until he goes on an all-Kobe binge, Bryant, who visits the Garden but once a year, should be lauded for stealing Jordan's former stage. When you catch a glimpse of history, it should be applauded, whether it wears No. 23 or No. 24. No questions asked.