When you talk about best player in the NBA, there are a few guys in the conversation. But there’s nobody better than Kobe Bryant.
No current player has been through what Kobe has. Walk a mile in his low top Nikes and it will destroy your feet.
Who has the talent to play for one of the league’s most storied franchises and relish the spotlight? Who played for a title contender before 21, had the zeal to launch game altering shots, AIR BALL THEM, and come back for more?
Who had the skills and the drive to emerge from the shadow of “His Airness” only to dominate in a similar fashion? Who comes with the ability to improve year in and year out, holding off all comers to his throne. Kobe Bean Bryant has dominated the post Jordan era and this just may be the time for him to seal his legacy.
“Kobe Doin’ Work” wasn’t a documentary. It was a snippet of the man’s life. He does this. Kobe is unlike most players in that the game is all he really cares about. Combine that passion, with his skill set and you have the best thing going today.
Kobe Bryant has won and lost. He’s been the hero and the pariah. The post Shaq years have been lean. Think about it. The Lakers have had the best record in the regular season and lost in the post season. He’s endured playing with teams ill equipped to match up with better constructed, team oriented squads. They’ve lost to teams they shouldn’t have. They’ve failed to live up to the hype.
Each time Kobe shouldered the blame. He’s suffered enough at the hands of the basketball gods to curse them without ceasing. Despite the pitfalls he comes back for more. He continues to grow; he continues to play.
How fitting was it that the road back to the NBA Finals went through Denver. Kobe exorcised some demons ya’ll. One bad decision in Colorado almost took away what no man could. On the court Kobe seemed perfect. Outside the lines he proved to be a flawed human being. By going there and winning he showed the world that he had overcome that situation and that place. He faced it and grew as a man.
What happened on the court symbolizes his continued basketball maturation. Sure the Lakers beat Denver last year but this was a more potent challenge. After being pushed, tripped, and roughed up Kobe emerged victorious. Previous Lakers teams might not have been able to beat a “team” like the Nuggets. They found a way to do. Kobe led them.
I think the Lakers have the better team in the NBA Finals. I think it will be harder for Orlando to defend L.A. than the opposite. The Lakers size and versatility is difficult to prepare for. That being said you can’t coach heart. Eventually you have to man up. Even Mike got over the proverbial hump once Scottie retook his manhood from the Bad Boys.
You can’t coach size. Gasol is maxing out. Don’t expect 35 and 20 from him. That’s not his game. He’s rebounding and scoring in the paint. He’s doing his job. Lamar Odom is playing for his future. What happens to talent unrealized? Mitch Kupchak trades it away, that’s what happens. Andrew Bynum is still tentative due to his knee injury. Maybe he’ll show up and maybe he won’t. Pre-injury he played well against Orlando. The Shannon Brown/Derek Fisher/Jordan Farmar triumvirate will need to show and prove. Ariza will be huge in this series as a defender and secondary scorer. Then bench will have to give help in stretches. If they turn the ball over and allow Orlando to overwhelm them then there could be more drama than necessary.
That being said, if the best remaining team emulates the best remaining player, they’ll be alright. Learn from your mistakes, show the heart to rebound. Show the drive to outlast the competition. The last two times Kobe Bryant played in the NBA Finals, he lost to better teams. Detroit and Boston did what they could to contain Bryant but the supporting cast couldn’t step up to the challenge. I think the group around Kobe is better equipped to handle the task this time around.
Dwight Howard poses a serious threat to L.A.’s title hopes. I think his having to defend two legitimate post players will make him less daunting defensively. His willingness to help on drives will be much more costly against the Lakers than it was against the Cavaliers.
Odom/Ariza can give Lewis/Turkoglu problems on the perimeter. I don’t see the versatility of the Magic frontline creating nearly as much havoc for the Lakers as it did for previous Orlando opponents.
Then consider this. There isn’t a defender playing for the Magic that can defend Kobe Bryant. The low post threats are in place to keep the defense honest. LeBron didn’t have Gasol, Bynum or a motivated Lamar Odom. Shooters are in place to punish over aggressive help defense. He didn’t have guys like Fisher and Ariza. The stage is set for Bryant to perform. He’s going to hug that trophy and cry like Mike did, watch. It means that much to him. Just wait and see.
Lakers in 6.