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Kobe-mania reigns in Lakers win over Toronto

Raptors Calderon celebrates a three point shot against the Lakers during their NBA basketball game in Toronto
Raptors Calderon celebrates a three point shot against the Lakers during their NBA basketball game in Toronto

By Steve Keating

TORONTO (Reuters) - 'Linsanity' may be the NBA's newest smash hit but the Kobe Bryant Show remains one of professional basketball's longest running acts.

The All-Star guard proving again he is basketball's ultimate showman as he lifted the Los Angeles Lakers to a 94-92 win over the Toronto Raptors on Sunday with some late game heroics.

With charismatic newcomer Jeremy Lin and the New York Knicks set to follow the Lakers into Toronto on Tuesday, the buzz around Sunday's matinee was very much focused on the phenomenon that has become known as 'Linsanity'.

But after Bryant came to the rescue with a jaw-dropping winner with less than four seconds to play, everyone was caught up in the grips of Kobe-mania.

"That's who he (Bryant) is," praised Lakers coach Mike Brown. "We are in a one-point game, a two-point game, the ball is going to be in his hands.

"We expect him to make the play and he did that tonight.

"When you have a guy like Kobe Bryant you are always going to give yourself a chance."

Recognized as one of the NBA's hardest working athletes and relentless perfectionist, Bryant is also described as one of the game's most ruthless competitors, willing do whatever it takes to win.

"Don't matter if you're in the backyard playing or on the main stage, he's going to try to take your neck off," Raptors DeMar DeRozan told reporters as he prepared to face Bryant "It don't matter where, it could be a snowy day against Eskimos. He's going to try to kill them all."

Just a handful of games into his NBA career, Lin barely qualifies as a one-hit wonder while Bryant has been the league's longest running hit.

For 16 seasons, Bryant has been the headliner, leading the Lakers to five championships and claiming a trophy case full of individual honors, including league and finals MVP awards.

Lin has become the NBA's Tim Tebow, the unwanted underdog who has emerged to capture the imagination of basketball fans around the world.

Bryant is an NBA institution, who leads the league in scoring this season and the 33-year-old shows no signs of slowing down saying he was ready to take on the heavy workload of another playoff of run followed by a bid for a gold medal at the London Olympics.

"It's a big Olympics for us, an opportunity for us to cement ourselves again as being a powerhouse," said Bryant.

"We won the last Olympics, we won the worlds and now we want to win the Olympics in London and that will put us back where we belong.

"I don't have to do much. I'm the closer, they bring me in the last two minutes.

"I don't have to do anything, LeBron (James), (Dwyane) Wade they can do all the heavy-lifting."

(Editing by Julian Linden)

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