The talent was always there, but the Lig was definitely a different monster back then. What was young fella really going to do with Zo? KG definitely paid his dues but 12 years later yet and still has a passionate love for the game to make this moment happen.
The story of the 2008 NBA Finals is not one of the Lakers versus Celtics rivalry. It is more of the student and teacher, and how the one will triumph the other.
Everywhere you look, or turn as it pertains to the 2008 NBA Finals is about 1987 and the soon to be renewed historic games between the Lakers and Celtics. From the Jr. sky hook and the bird’s nest, to Johnny Most and Chick Hearn this is as close as it will get, because that was then and this is now. Not to rain on the parade, but presently these teams are rivals in theory, because they have never battled for the title, or anything else for that matter in decades. If both teams are to repeat as conference champions next season, then and only then can we burn the nostalgia log and reminisce around the fire.
When breaking down the Lakers versus Celtics, the play of their superstars is the barometer at which we should measure this series. Kevin Garnett is the leader of his group, and as a future member of the Hall of Fame this is how its supposed to be. Kobe Bryant is not only the league MVP, but he is also as most consider him, to be the best player on the planet. Together they are the leaders of the new school, as the successful players to make the jump from high school to the professional ranks. Now there have been others, but none have garnered the accolades of “The Kid” and “The Kid”. Yes KG was stuck in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, and KB8 had a certain 7-foot center, but all in all, they are destiny’s child, and on Thursday, June 5, 2008, we will witness the culmination of a trek that began in 1995.
It’s not just about talent for these two true to the game superstars bring all the intangibles
The date was March 6, 1996 and my best friend Brandon King and I went to go cheer on the Minnesota Timberwolves against our hapless Philadelphia 76ers. We were cheering against the home team not because we wanted them to “tank it” and get Allen Iverson in June…no, nothing like that. It was because we were there to cheer on University of Pennsylvania alum Jerome “Pooh” Allen, who was so legendary in the neighborhood, that he had the entire city trying to emulate his signature through the legs, behind the back cross over move. I don’t remember seeing Allen play because little did I know as a fresh faced teen that the NBA is a business, and when you have a high school player on your squad that was drafted with the 5th pick overall, he plays. While the accomplished Ivy League, and Philadelphia hero that was taken in the 2nd round, 20th pick, 49th overall sits the bench, and continues to work extremely hard in practice. I didn’t understand the politics, but it was there that I decided that I didn’t like Flip Saunders as a head coach.
Sorry coach, nothing personal.
Minnesota won the game 103-90, and it was the play of Kevin Garnett that really stood out. Here he is not that much older than I and he is playing in the NBA. I was both encouraged and perplexed. You have to understand that when I was growing up playing ball in the Sonny Hill League, the message revolved around two things, education and the game. Even the legend Rasheed Wallace went to college, so when Garnett skipped higher learning, people were surprised. Which brings me to another point…I was so frustrated with Flip Saunders for not putting Jerome Allen in the game that I began to concentrate less on the Wolves, and more on the people around me. As I scanned the audience for a fine “hunny”, I saw a young man that looked as if he were studying for a final exam, rather than watching a basketball game. It was Kobe Bryant, the younger brother of my crush Sharia. You see his oldest sister Sharia played volleyball at Temple University and at 5’10” she not only excelled at the sport, she made it look GOOD. I became friends with her thinking that if I couldn’t get a date, I could at least befriend her.
One day after mustering up some courage, I told her that I play basketball and she smiled and says ‘yeah, well you can’t beat my little brother! I didn’t know who she was talking about so I said, ‘go get your brother…and a few days later I was standing in front of her 6’4″ younger brother with a look that spelled anger, so after denying the facts, I naturally wanted to get on his good side and befriend him also.
By the time I saw Kobe at that 76ers game I was comfortable enough with him to speak, but I decided not to because of the way he was “enjoying” the game. I never saw anything like it and by June 26, everything made sense. Bryant was drafted 13th by the Charlotte Hornets and later traded to the Los Angeles Lakers for Vlade Divac.
He was in fact studying that game, and more specifically he was concentrating on Kevin Garnett and how he faired as a high school prodigy against the likes of the NBA. It was no secret in Philadelphia that Kobe had been practicing at St. Joseph’s University against the 76ers, giving Jerry Stackhouse headaches, so he didn’t lack for confidence, I just figured that he wanted to see someone else put in work to make his argument to enter the draft a little more solid.
It was the classic scenario of student learning from teacher. Bryant had a year to watch Garnett, to make what would become the biggest move of his young life. Luckily for the Lakers, Jerry West saw the “it” factor in Bryant, brining him to La La land in a trade that resembles the one for Manhattan island centuries before.
Thank you for reading thus far and if you couldn’t tell, I’m picking the Lakers to win this series 4-2. It could go 7 games, but it really doesn’t matter how many contests it takes, the only thing that matters is who wins the Larry O’Brien trophy.
The teams are about even except in 3 categories:
- Coach, advantage Lakers. Phil Jackson does coach, the knock on Jackson is that he usurps championship teams, but none of them have won without him, end of story.
- Bench, advantage Lakers. The run and gun triangle is fueled by youth that now have valuable Western Conference Playoff experience.
- Will power, advantage Lakers. Kobe Bryant is dedicated to basketball like no one else in the league, or on this earth for that matter. He is truly crazy in love with the game, and he has not worked this well, with this team to lose this series. Kevin Garnett is focused, and he plays with the emotion from chopping fire wood in his native South Carolina, however Bryant has an edge that hasn’t been seen in a long time. As a matter of fact, after that final game that ended the defending champion Spurs season, Bryant had a moment to catch up with Tony Parker in the hallway outside the locker room, and Kobe shrugged his shoulders and apologized to Parker saying, “I’m sorry…the demon just came out.”
“This game’s in the refrigerator: the door is closed, the lights are out, the eggs are cooling, the butter’s getting hard, and the Jell-O’s jiggling.” – Chick Hearn