1. The Clothesline
Although the number five moment on this list was entitled the “2006 Playoffs,” I specifically left out one particular moment of the series because it deserved to be one category all to it’s own:
The clothesline of Raja Bell on Kobe Bryant in Game 5 of that series.
With 7:33 remaining in the fourth and the Suns (who were down 3-1 in the series) with the game in hand up 93-79, Kobe attempted to drive on Raja who subsequently clothesline’d Kobe with his left arm, wrapping him up and pulling the superstar to the ground.
The moment was not necessarily isolated as Bell had felt that throughout the series Kobe had been getting away with a number of elbows which had connected with Raja, including several to his face – one in particular earlier in the game.
While Raja was rightfully given a Flagrant 2 call which was not only cause for an immediate ejection but also a Game 6 suspension, the moment served as not only a rallying cry for the still trailing-in-the-series Suns, but also potentially one of the most historically noteworthy events in franchise-history.
The beauty of the moment from Kobe Bryant’s side of it though was his handling of the situation.
Kobe knew the moment, and he knew that he was in Raja Bell’s head.
Bryant did not retaliate physically or emotionally in any way which in turn kept his teammates calm in the moment as well, but he simply got up, literally dusted himself off, wagged a finger as if to say that it wouldn’t effect him, and continued to play.
In an interview prior to Game 7 (the Suns managed to pull off a 126-118 Game 6 victory in Los Angeles with a miraculous Tim Thomas 3-pointer to tie that game at 105 in regulation with 6.3 seconds remaining before outscoring LA 21-13 in OT), Kobe responded to comments by Raja Bell that “maybe he wasn’t hugged enough as a kid.”
Raja’s mother took exception to that statement and after Phoenix’s Game 7 blowout and series-clinching win, she found Kobe under the stands and offered the Black Mamba a hug.