Kobe’s Hunt

As it slithers, slopes and slides, the black mamba locates and locks onto its prey with precision.

Every move — carefully calculated — is in direct conjunction with the fleeting surroundings because the target is the only objective.

But what happens after the fact? Once the black mamba catches up to its prey and devours it whole, what happens next? Logically, it dials in on the mission.

Kobe Bean Bryant acquired a target and swallowed it whole. He set out to pass his idol, Michael Jordan, on the all-time scoring list. Mission accomplished.

There was a wave of chatter about Bryant settling down, calming his obsessive work ethic and relaxing now that he’s tallied more points than MJ. But if you’ve watched the last two decades and studied both the on-court and off-court demeanor of No. 24, you’d know that’s a very faint option.

After he passed Jordan’s mark of 32,292 points, he received a bit of advice from his prey. “Go get Karl,” Jordan told Bryant.

Did he really need to be told that? Sure, you can twaddle on about how Bryant is on the wrong side of 35 years old and a glimmer of the daredevil acrobat he once was. Eventually, that last meal will be an afterthought and the black mamba is on the hunt again.

Bryant is 4,553 points behind Karl Malone’s second-place seat on the all-time scoring list — 36,928 points for the one they called “The Mailman.” Something tells me he’s ready for a second serving.

The Los Angeles Lakers are 9-22 so far this season. The only snowfall L.A. has seen consists of a flurry of boos overflowing the Staples Center. And there just seems to be no fight in the team. Tinsel Town is shining bright with flashes of red, white and blue due to the Los Angeles Clippers phenomenon — you might recognize it as “Lob City.”

So what does Bryant, arguably the NBA’s most battled-tested warrior, have left to fight for? That legendary sixth ring evades every bite, and it’s not likely he’ll get a clear shot again. Hell, the Boston Celtics turned down two first-round picks from the Lakers to take a worse deal from the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Rajon Rondo’s services. It’s bad… real bad.

That could be why Bryant, who’s floated retirement sweet nothings into our ears, is changing his appetite. He’s committed to the Lakers — foolish, but admirable. A captain goes down with his ship. But if he isn’t going to tie Jordan with a sixth NBA title, what’s the point?

I say it’s the all-time scoring record.

Bryant’s eyes may be bigger than his stomach if he’s aiming on catching Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 38,387 points. But, damn, I sure as hell won’t be the one to tell Kobe the kitchen’s closed.

Neither time nor help is on his side, but Bryant’s defied the laws of physics time and again. He’s allocated alleys and driven down dunks longer than most players can dream of doing. When his youth started to leak, he evolved like his mentor did. Bryant went from overpowering his prey to outsmarting it. After all, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

He’s no longer the 18-year-old Lower Merion High School stud who launched into the rafters. But he’s still the same ol’ black mamba — one year older, but one year wiser.

If 24 is hungry for either Malone, Abdul-Jabbar, or both, the rest of the league better eat before the show… something tells me there won’t be much to go around after Kobe’s last bite.