INDIANAPOLIS - Of all the wondrous things that Kobe Bryant has accomplished as a basketball player, imitating Michael Jordan is his unique quality.
The similarities between the two are startling - right down to Bryant and Jordan sounding like real life brothers who don't sound alike.
Bryant even mimics Jordan's fluid movements on the court. He is particularly adept at back-pedaling like Mike after sinking a basket.
Bryant, however, is not the real McCoy.
Not yet. Maybe never.
Give him a few more years to prove he deserves being compared with arguably the greatest player of all time.
Give him time to add a few NBA titles to his resume.
Jordan has six.
Bryant, whose Los Angeles Lakers can secure their first title since 1988 by winning Game 5 of the best-of-seven series tonight against the Indiana Pacers, is very close to winning his first championship.
Bryant carried his Jordan impersonation to a new plateau in the Lakers' 120-118 overtime win in Game 4.
Coming back strong after missing the previous game with a sprained ankle, Bryant played 47 minutes and scored a series-high 28 points.
Bryant took over after teammate Shaquille O'Neal fouled out with little more than two minutes remaining. He scored on three of the next four possessions, including the decisive basket - a twisting, tip-in at the 5.9-second mark.
"When I fouled out, Kobe winked at me and sai'don't worry about it. I got it,' '' said O'Neal, who finished with 36 points and 21 rebounds.
Bryant, a four-year veteran who doesn't turn 22 until August, said he felt no pressure when O'Neal fouled out.
"This is the game I have been dreaming about,'' Bryant said.
"I mean, I dream about it every day. I dreamed about it before I came to the game. I actually dreamed about hitting the game-winning shot.
"At that time of the game, you don't feel pressure, you just lose yourself in the moment.''
It was the kind of command performance that Jordan was famous for.
But it was just one game.
Bryant is still learning the subtle nuances of the pro game. When to attack, when to retreat. When to pass, when to shoot.
In Game 4 of the Finals, it all came together for Bryant and the Lakers.
He scored 10 points to ignite the Lakers' third-quarter comeback, and scored 22 in the second half.
"It was just realizing how to go with the flow of the game,'' Bryant said. "You know that you can get to that spot, so you might come back there in the fourth quarter. Little mind games that you play.
"In the third quarter, we needed a little push . . . I pushed it . . . Laid off a little bit. Then when Shaq went out, I just had to turn it up.''
Listen to Lakers' coach Phil Jackson, who also coached Jordan with the Bulls.
"That was a great performance by Kobe, but I've seen a lot of great ones,'' Jackson said.
"But you compare the fact that I coached 100 games . . . 110 games . . . 115 games with Michael Jordan (in the playoffs), so I saw a lot of games that were above or beyond the level of an individual performer.''
Yes, it's going to take time before Bryant becomes all he can be.
Time is on his side.
John Harris is a Blade sports columnist.
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