STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep in Washington.
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
And I'm Renee Montagne at NPR West in California, where the Los Angeles Lakers are one step closer to a title. The Lakers eked out a win in the first game in the Western Conference finals. They beat the Denver Nuggets 105-103. Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 40 points and he fueled the debate over who is the NBA's best. NPR's Tom Goldman reports.
TOM GOLDMAN: The debate - is it Kobe Bryant of LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers - is taking all kinds of forms these days. There are the puppets brought to us by Nike, little fuzzy likenesses of Bryant and James. At least in this TV commercial it seems like puppet Kobe with his three NBA titles has the upper hand.
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NBA: Unidentified Man #1: (as Bryant) You've got to be hungry, LeBron.
GOLDMAN: Then there's the Logo. That's the nickname for former Lakers' star Jerry West. His dribbling silhouette is the NBA's official logo. And the big sports news all Tuesday was that West in an interview said James had surpassed Bryant as the league's best player.
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MONTAGNE: Bryant on the drive. To the basket, hammered. And Kobe Bryant will shoot two, Lakers up two with 10 seconds remaining.
GOLDMAN: It was a pretty routine performance made more significant by all the talk about Kobe versus LeBron. But Bryant wouldn't take the bait and say his performance was motivated by the talk.
KOBE BRYANT: If I wanted to go out there and put up 35 points a night, I could do that. That's not my mission. My mission is to win a championship. And you know, the debate of who's the best player in the NBA, that's going to go on for whatever. You know, that's not something that I concern myself with.
GOLDMAN: Tom Goldman, NPR News.
MONTAGNE: The other Los Angeles team won a victory of sorts last night. The L.A. Clippers won the draft lottery. That's the annual drawing when the league's worst teams find out who gets to draft the best young player and dream about next year. The Clippers could choose Oklahoma's Blake Griffin, the national college player of the year.
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