Kobe Bryant came and went last week and along the way he again frustrated the Jazz, infuriated their fans and, oh yeah, turned in another 40-point performance.
It was his second straight 40-plus night and he added another Friday when he scored 42 against Cleveland.
I've always been fascinated by Bryant's incredibly competitive will. It's what separates him from other NBA superstars. I've come to realize it's not his skills that make him great, it's his fire.
At 33 and in his 16th season in the NBA, I have no doubt there are players in the league who have more raw talent and athleticism than Bryant. But despite what some arbitrary Internet player rankings say, he remains the best player in the NBA.
No, make that best player on the planet.
(Before going any farther, let me state one thing: It's my job to be objective, and I'm not paid to root for one team or one player over another. But in the interest of full disclosure, I'll admit I grew up as a major Boston Celtics fan. That meant I also grew up hating the Lakers.
Why am I brining this up now? Only to illustrate my own objectivity. When I say Kobe Bryant is the best player on the planet, I'm doing so as someone with absolutely no ties to him or the Lakers. Believe me, I get no pleasure from it.)
Somewhere between the time Bryant scored 48 on Phoenix and 40 on the Jazz last week, Lakers coach Mike Brown was asked about Kobe and LeBron James, the two megawatt stars he's coached.
Brown coached LeBron in Cleveland, now he's got Kobe in L.A.
"They're both competitive, they both want to win," Brown told the L.A. Times. "There's just a different feel to the two guys that it's hard to put into words right now. They're both obviously guys that know how to perform at a high level.
"Their games are very different on both ends of the floor, but especially offensively. LeBron is a guy who is still learning and still growing and the reality of it is, being down there with Dwyane Wade is helping him. Every year, every game, he's getting better."
Let's face it, Brown was put in a delicate situation when asked to compare those two. But to his credit, he answered as honestly as he could without creating an ESPN-fueled controversy.
I appreciate what he had to say and his willingness to say it. I also believe it's not hard to read between the lines, especially when he spoke of Kobe's and LeBron's differing personalities.
They're both incredibly famous and enormously talented, but it seems they're not motivated by the same things.
"LeBron, he's a guy that likes to laugh and joke and he knows there's a time to be serious," Brown said. "He's youthful, I guess. That's probably the word, where Kobe is not as much. Kobe is more serious-minded, but Kobe knows how to have fun in his own way too."
Yes, he's definitely more serious-minded. Anybody who's ever watched him play, who's ever seen that fierce -- and sometimes annoying--- look in his eyes, knows he's very serious when it comes to basketball.
The tail-end of Brown's last quote is particularly interesting.
"... Kobe knows how to have fun in his own way too."
Uh-huh. And any Jazz fan will tell you Kobe's idea of fun is silencing 19,000 screaming fans with a flick of his wrist and the swish of a net.
See, unlike LeBron, he's never been the kind of guy who needs to be loved. In fact, I'm pretty sure he feeds off the hatred. That's why when he visits other arenas -- like EnergySolutions -- and hears the booing, it often ignites something inside him.
The Lakers return to Salt Lake City on Feb. 4 at 7 p.m. If you're interested in seeing one of the best to ever play the game, show up. And if you're a Jazz fan who's sick of seeing Kobe put on a show, resit the urge to boo him. See if silence dims the fire in his eyes.
It's worth a shot.
Jim Burton is the Standard-Examiner's sports columnist. He also covers the Utah Jazz and the NBA. He can be reached at 801-625-4265 or at email@example.com. He tweets at http://twitter.com/jmb247