Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
There are only a few players in sports, a special few, who can pick their team up, put them on their shoulders and carry a team to victory. Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is one of those guys.
Every team in every sport has talented players. Yet when it is crunch time, when the game is on the line whether that's in the first quarter or in the final minutes, final period or final inning, the special few rise above the rest. Sometimes it's talent. Sometimes its through sheer will of heart and mind.
Most of us have been lucky enough to see a few of these guys. John Elway and Brett Favre carrying their teams to victory. Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan are certainly on this very short list.
Growing up in the 1970s I saw Philadelphia Flyers' captain Bobby Clarke, not the most talented guy on the team, force his team to play at his level and win two Stanley Cups.
In my eyes, Bryant has joined this select list.
When the Lakers won titles in the past and everything was running smoothly, it was much harder to notice, but in 2012-13 as the Lakers try to squeeze into the final playoff spot in the Western conference it's much easier to see.
With about 20 games to go in the season the Lakers are still on the outside, looking in, but not because of Bryant's play. He's doing whatever the team needs, whether it be as a playmaker or scorer to help his team win.
And it's working.
Over the past 21 games the team is 15-6 and has climbed to within a half game of the final playoff spot. Over that span Bryant is averaging 25.0 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 7.8 apg. His numbers are even more impressive if we look at what he's done so far in March as we head into "crunch time" - 36.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 7.5 apg.
On Wednesday he led his team from an 18-point fourth quarter deficit to a 108-102 victory with 18 of his game-high 42 points in the final 12 minutes. Bryant's drive to the bucket tied the game at 102-102 and he followed up with a deep go-ahead jumper from the left wing for a lead they would not relinquish.
On Friday night Bryant again brought his team back from the brink of defeat (down seven with under four minutes in regulation) with a 41-point, six rebound, 12-assist effort, including three three-pointers in the final minutes to win in overtime.
While he's carrying his Lakers to a playoff spot, he's also leading your fantasy team up the standings.
The advantage that Bryant's fantasy owners will have over LeBron James owners and Kevin Durant owners down the stretch is that while the Heat and Thunder are cruising to the playoffs and will rest their superstars, Bryant will be playing at his best for 40 minutes a night.
While James and Durant may be the best overall fantasy players in the NBA, it's more than likely that Bryant will have better numbers over the final 20 games, and through sheer will, carry both his Lakers and your fantasy team to unknown heights.