Kobe Bryant, much like Michael Jordan, always felt the responsibility to do everything in their power to win the game. Oftentimes, this would mean neglecting their teammate who may be in a better position and trying to get past an army of defenders.
Jordan eventually learned to trust his teammates, especially with sharpshooters like Steve Kerr on his team. Jordan trusted Kerr to make the crucial shot during the 1997 NBA Finals that sealed the series for the Bulls against the Utah Jazz.
Similarly, Kobe Bryant had to do the same during his stint with the Lakers. In the 2010 NBA Finals, Kobe and the Lakers pushed the Celtics to a Game 7 in the Staples Center. Bryant surprisingly passed the ball to Ron Artest (now Metta Sandiford-Artest), who scored a clutch three that sealed the victory for the Lakers.
Artest recently spoke about the entirety of the 2010 NBA playoff run he had with the Lakers (1:12 mark). Artest joined the Lakers in 2009, after their championship run in which they were challenged mot by Artest and the Rockets.
For Metta, he believes that his experience playing against Kobe the prior season was a big part of why Bryant trusted him to knock down the big shots during key moments. Metta noted that he had high-scoring games in most of the closeout games, but not during other games.
Even in the NBA Finals, Artest had low-scoring games. But he always remained ready during every possession to receive the ball from Kobe and attempt to score. But his stance was clear; he would not demand the ball to help score, especially after the Lakers showed that they can win a championship without him.
“With Kobe, I brought it in practice. And I played against these guys the year before that. So I was bringing it. We almost took him out. So I’m ready for that moment. Every playoff series I had, I played pretty well with the exception of maybe 1. I had my own teams where I was the man on teams. I was competing against him, offensively and defensively on other teams. I'm not saying I was as good as him but I was competing. I think he knew I wanted that shot. I’m right there the whole time. The crazy thing is, when you look at that whole championship series or even the whole run. All closeout games I had 20. I had 20 against Suns, go to the Finals, the Jazz 20, just close them out. So, in the championship, I had maybe some games 2 points, 4 points in a couple of early games. But I’m like this (gestures for the ball) for 40 minutes, ready. Don’t even think about not touching the ball. Just stay ready and do what you are supposed to do. He saw that. The game we went to the Celtics in Boston, I hit my first 2 threes. I wasn’t ready but Kobe is taking over, he’s gonna do his thing. And then in Game 5, and Kobe has 25 straight points. None of us scored. So then we lose that game, and we go back to LA, Game 6. And then leaving the Garden, Phil comes to me and says “I need you to score”… In Game 6, 17. And then Game 7, I had 20. I would love to shoot but I’m not going to shoot now. Y’all won last year without me, I’m not about to come in here and mess it up…”
Bryant and Artest's relationship became very strong through the course of that season. And Kobe trusted Metta to make big shots during the big moments in order to help the Lakers reach the pinnacle of the NBA. Despite their strong relationship, he doesn't rank Kobe in his top-5 greatest NBA defenders of all time.
But Kobe showing trust in his teammates allowed him to reap the ultimate reward; winning the NBA championship. The biggest criticism surrounding Kobe was that he didn't pass his teammates the ball. But he showed in the biggest moment that he was willing to do whatever it takes to get the win.