(Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
The date was March 13, 2013, it was a cold Wednesday night in Atlanta, Georgia and the Lakers were visiting the Atlanta Hawks on the second night of a back-to-back, having just played the Magic in Orlando the night before and looking to complete the final game of their mini 3 game road trip 2 nights later in Indiana to face the Pacers.
The Lakers were heading into the stretch run to the playoffs, playing in game 66 with only 16 games remaining to close out the year. Coming in with a record of 34-31 the Lakers were in a fierce battle to both move up the playoff standings and fend off the Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks for that 8th and final playoff spot. The Lakers were fighting for their playoff lives and this game against the Hawks and every game to close out the year was huge.
Kobe Bryant and the Lakers fall behind the Hawks early, going into halftime down 55-43 but storm back in the 3rd bringing the deficit down to 2 points to close out the quarter. In the highly contested 4th quarter Bryant hits a 3-point shot with 18.2 seconds left in the game to bring the Lakers within 1 point. On the final possession of the game for the Lakers, down 94-92 with less than 20 seconds remaining, the ball in Bryant’s hands, he drives baseline on Hawks’ defender Dahntay Jones and pulls up for a fade away jumper that bounces off the front of the rim, the rebound taken by the Hawks. Game over, Lakers lose.
The aftermath of that final play is Kobe Bryant laying on the ground, holding his left ankle and writhing in pain which resulted from him coming down on the foot of Jones on the final shot of the game.
Players twisting an ankle by coming down on the foot of a defender is rather common in the NBA, but that is not how Bryant perceived it. Following the game, when speaking with reporters, Bryant was livid.
“As defensive players, you can contest shots, but you can’t walk underneath players,” Bryant told reporters. “That’s dangerous for the shooter.”
The fun didn’t end there as both Kobe Bryant and Dahntay Jones went to Twitter to for an exchange of their differentiating views of that final play.
#dangerousplay that should have been called. Period.
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) March 14, 2013
Tape doesn't lie. Ankle was turned on the floor after the leg kick out that knocked him off balance. I would never try to hurt the man
— Dahntay (@dahntay1) March 14, 2013
Leg kick that makes contact with a defensive player is an offense foul. Period. The nba changed that rule 2 yrs ago. Stop it!
— Dahntay (@dahntay1) March 14, 2013
Looking at missing time due to the ankle sprain during a crucial playoff run Bryant had an immediate thirst for revenge.
“I can’t get my mind past the fact that I got to wait a year to get revenge,” Bryant told reporters following the Hawks game.
As it turned out, Bryant ruptures his Achilles in the 3rd to last game of the 2012-13 season and misses all but 6 games the following season. The Hawks do not bring back Dahntay Jones the following season and he is unable to make an NBA roster last season.
Jones out of the league and in his 30s the likelihood that he’d ever appear in another NBA game was diminishing by the day.
That brings us to today. The Utah Jazz visiting the Lakers in Anaheim for a meaningless preseason game. On the Jazz roster it is none-other than Dahntay Jones, currently on a non-guaranteed deal with a slim chance of making the team.
Its been 20 months since the incident and there has been quite some to cool off, but If Kobe Bryant wanted some type of retribution for what he called a “deliberate” and “dangerous play” this might be his only chance to obtain it. We’ll find out tonight if Bryant’s long awaited thirst for revenge is finally quenched.