The Rockets had a fantastic win tonight over the Lakers 107-104. The Rockets are making a strong push for the playoffs, and continue to prove that playing at home means winning basketball games. The Rockets are now 17-6 at home, and if you haven’t seen them play live, you really need to get out and support this team.
The win was fantastic, and it’s always fun beating the Lakers, but what I really wanted to write about is the superstar effect. I was lucky enough to attend this game live and in the flesh. It was incredibly entertaining, and my favorite team came out the winners. But the striking focal point on tonight’s game for me was the Kobe Bryant effect.
I have been to numerous Rockets games in my lifetime, and I have even been to playoff games. When you attend a playoff game, the vibe is different. It feels like home court advantage for the most part. The fans are hyped, and free red shirts are given away, giving real meaning to “Red Nation.” Even if the opponent does have a bona fide superstar, you don’t tend to feel it in a big way. Pride and excitement takes over the arena.
The circumstances tonight were vastly different. Because of the shortened season the Lakers only come to Houston ONCE. Let me tell you fans are very aware of this, and the first thing that caught my eye today, were all the Lakers jerseys in the crowd. Wait…. scratch that, all the Kobe Bryant jerseys to be more specific. One human being, at the age of 33 still captivates the basketball loving country. I knew Kobe was loved, but seeing it in person is completely different than hearing about it, or seeing it on television.
I started referring to them as “Kobe’s disciples.” It’s like they were lost in another world. Every time he touched the ball, the disciples would go crazy. He would make a simple jump shot, and arms would go flying in the air.
I have never seen a regular season game like I saw today. Early on it felt like a road game, and I made sure I was in the right venue. I even saw an elderly lady sitting three rows ahead of me who thought Kobe was her “son.” She said she spent some of her savings to get as close to the man as she possibly could. One guy, causing this much ruckus wherever he goes.
Don’t get me wrong, I may sound naive right now but the superstar effect in person is unreal. The first thing that ran through my mind was, wow…. I underrate Kobe’s career, and all the pressure that comes with it. Then I came back to reality, and started hating him again. Hey I was at a Rockets game….
It was just a surreal moment, to see how one player can change the schematics for one franchise. Sure the Lakers are historic, and they have national attention with all the stars that go and support them in LaLa land… but in Houston? At one point fans wanted Kobe back on the court so bad, chants of “Kobe, Kobe, Kobe” broke out at the Toyota Center. Keep in mind the Lakers were holding a double digit lead at the time.
The Rockets and Lakers always do battle in epic style. The Rockets have never stacked up to the talent level the Lakers have, but they play at such a high team level, that they always give the fans something to smile about. As Rockets fans, could you guys imagine how loud the Toyota Center would be on a nightly basis, if the Rockets acquired a superstar? No offense to the guys on this roster. They all work hard, play with respect, and give it all they got. But as fans that want a championship, we know this roster will most likely not get it done. You can never count out a Cinderella story, but far too many times this season we have seen the Rockets lose games down the stretch, due to the opponent having a closer.
Chris Paul has done it twice already, and whether you love him or hate him…. he’s a superstar. The impact of a superstar is undeniable, and now having two is no big deal.
The days of Clutch City were amazing, and it all revolved around a superstar. That superstar needed solid teammates, but when you needed a game defining play, Hakeem Olajuwon was the man.
Kobe Bryant shows no end in sight, and fans still gush over this guy, and his talents. It was truly an interesting vibe in Toyota Center tonight, and while I give major props to Rockets fans, Kobe nation was alive and well.