Monday, June 21, 2010

Celebrating the Lakers' 09-10 Season

Every time the Los Angeles Lakers loses in an NBA Finals in June, it hurts big time.  Yup, it would also hurt every time they are defeated earlier in the playoffs.  But not so much. Because it happens on an April or a May, and when June comes, by then, I would have recovered from the disappointment of the Lakers getting eliminated.  Since my birthday is in the month of June, if the Lakers fell in the Finals, it is heartbreaking and it kind of ruins the mood a bit for the upcoming birthday.  And if they win, I always consider a Lakers championship as a birthday gift for myself.

This latest Laker championship they won is the ugliest and toughest one I had ever seen.  However, it is also the sweetest since it came against the Boston Celtics.  The championship won against the Magic the previous year was great, but ever since the Celtics beat the Lakers on 2008 and ruined my birthday for that year, I really wanted a rematch to get back at them.  Thus, I was excited when the Celtics upset the Cavaliers and the Magic and prepared the stage for another Laker-Celtics NBA Finals.  I knew it was going to be tough, but I was not expecting it to be that ugly.  The Lakers barely got the championship, though they won blowout games in Games 1 and 6.   The Celtics were playing tough and grinding basketball against the Lakers finesse, even getting a 3-2 advantage on them.  But the Lakers outplayed the Celtics in their own grinding game and out-willed them in the end to win the championship. 

This NBA season was never an easy season for the Laker’s path to a repeat championship.  But it was still fun, and the ending made that tough journey worthwhile.   Let me review: 

KOBE BRYANT


Kobe was awesome early this season, a shooting guard who played like a power forward most of the time.  Kobe played the part of the injured and out Pau Gasol earlier in the season as he transforms into Hakeem Olajuwon.  His post-up plays awed us all, adding another variety to his already dangerous arsenal.  He was shooting 49%!  In that pace, he was already on his way for a second MVP.

Unfortunately, the injuries came and limited Kobe.  Fingers, back, knee, ankle… such bad luck to suffer such package of injuries.  I think fortune gave him the injuries because if not, he will greatly dominate the NBA and would make it impossible for the younger superstars to have a chance to catch up to his greatness.  But, still, he played through the injuries because he has a warrior’s heart.  However, his numbers suffered, allowing LeBron James to overtake him for MVP.  I’ll admit it now, LeBron is the better player.  Yes, he is… when Kobe is friggin’ and seriously injured!  LeBron still has the potential, the odds, and the prowess to overtake Kobe some day, but for now, he’s still below Kobe.  No way he can take the title as the planet’s best player from that healthy Hakeem Olajuwon-style Kobe Bryant we saw at the start of the season.     

You may say I’m biased since Kobe Bryant is my most favorite NBA player.  As a Laker fan, I should be “biased.”  But this observation that Kobe is better than LeBron is not all through personal bias at all.  Sure, LeBron still statistically dominates Kobe.  But I had always argued that statistics is not the whole story.  Kobe has things that cannot be measured by stats.  I already admitted that LeBron was the better player this season, but only because Kobe was greatly limited by his many injuries.  And yes, LeBron got his second straight regular season MVP.  But Kobe Bryant still ended up on top this season.  Kobe got the Finals MVP, which I always point out, an honor that comes with a championship ring.  LeBron James might be the King, but Kobe Bryant is the King of Kings.  Bow down to the Black Mamba, Bron.


I read an essay of Daniel Buerger this year that analogized the Kobe-LeBron debate with the Batman-Superman debate.  Here are some of the good parts in his excellent written essay:

·    LeBron James is a physical anomaly, a combination of brute strength and pure bodily dominance that is unlike anything we have seen before. Kobe Bryant has a regular sized physique and was not given outrageous physical gifts, but has propelled himself to legendary status using his wit, mind, and willingness to adapt to his surroundings. In this situation Bryant is the clear Batman representation while James will send Dwight Howard to the bench and don the Superman cape.”  
             
·    “To begin this debate we will start with my personal favorite, Batman. Batman is a super hero that isn’t, as he possesses no abnormal powers or abilities. He is in every sense of the word, a man. However, his mental quest for what he deems is right in unmistakable, and his brain ticks differently than anybody else’s. His quest for vengeance comes from within, and this drives him to make an impact on the world. His determination allowed him to turn his otherwise normal body into a weapon. His relentless drive forces him to work harder than his opposition, so when his enemies are at the end of their rope he is just getting started. In his enemies mind, he is much more than a man, and this edge is created purely by the Dark Knight’s mind.
“Superman is a completely different animal, almost literally. He is from a different planet and is immune to the perils that all humans face. He is untouchable in every aspect of the word, and other than small fragments of his home planet known as kryptonite, he is invincible. Superman possesses physical attributes that no other human comes close to, and is able to defeat his enemies with brute strength and overwhelming power. While I am not calling him a dumb brute, the fact is that Superman doesn’t have to use knowledge or excessive mental activity to defeat his enemies due to his overwhelming physical presence. This is not to say that he is unable of such a feat, it is just unnecessary.

·    So, both players are great in different regards, and they represent each super hero quite admirably. James has been gifted with the physical dominance that allows him to not just go around his opponents, but over them. He can do things with his body that many of us deem other-worldly, and it is truly amazing to watch. Bryant on the other hand is a crafty veteran that uses his mind to motivate his body. He adapts to his surroundings, therefore forcing his surroundings to favor his game. James doesn’t need to outsmart his opponents because he is such a superior athletic being, just like Superman. Bryant is continuously adding new tricks and gadgets to his utility belt, always trying to stay a step ahead of the opposition.
“Another strong similarity between each player and their respective super hero is the frame of mind that each features. Superman knows he is going to defeat his enemies using the gifts he was given, and James is the same way. You don’t see LeBron James working on things like midrange jumpers or his post-up skills, because he doesn’t need to use them most of the time. The Man of Steel clich├ęs we are all familiar with, the one involving him jumping over buildings and flying through the air like a speeding bullet, all ring true when you see James step on the floor.
“The same rings true for Bryant, and his alter-ego Batman. Without the supernatural powers, Batman uses determination and constant vigilance to create his legend. He seeks experts from around the world to help improve his hand-to-hand combat, always trying to learn the latest tricks. Sound familiar? Remember this, last summer, fresh off his NBA Finals MVP award, Bryant called up Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon to help him work on his post-up game. While most people in that position would be polishing their trophy and celebrating being the best basketball player on the planet, Bryant was already working to stay ahead of the opposition.”


As a comic book fan, Batman is one of my favorite characters and I am a fan of him.  I prefer him over Superman, whom I found as “too powerful”, thus lacking depth and charisma as a character (many would even go the extent of claiming that Superman is boring).  I am not a fan of Superman but it does not mean I hate Superman either; I am actually a Superman “fan” in a sense that I appreciate his mythos and character and what he brings to comics.  Thus, as an NBA fan, Kobe is my favorite because he’s a versatile all-around player who might not be as athletic and naturally and physically gifted as LeBron, but is deadly because of his intelligence, hard work, and “utility belt” or arsenal of weapons.  I am not a LeBron fan but it doesn’t mean I hate him either; I am actually a LeBron “fan” in a sense I appreciate LeBron as a player and his talents and what he brings to the NBA.  I just find the Kobe-Batman type of character more interesting and if compared or pitted against the LeBron-Superman character, I would pick Kobe-Batman.  So, even if LeBron James have the natural, physical and given Superman invincibility to beat Kobe Bryant, Kobe has the Batman wits and cunning of furnishing a kryptonite bullet, held ready for the purpose of destroying LeBron.

Actually, that Kobe-Lebron Batman-Superman analogy made me appreciate Kobe more.   Just one factor why I think Kobe is still the best.   Another factor?  His six gamewinners this season.  Let's review it, shall we?
First he hit a tough buzzer-beater bunk-shot three against the Miami Heat…
Then, a few days later, he hit another buzzer beater gamewinner against the Milwaukee Bucks… 
This is my favorite gamewinner this season, when he hit a buzzerbeater three-pointer against the Sacramento Kings.  As C.A. Clark, a Laker blog writer, pointed out “…Kobe Bryant set his own screen for the game winner.  Next time, he will inbound the ball to himself, while setting himself a screen, and then hit himself on the dive for a dunk to win the game.”
Then, though no longer a buzzerbeater, it was still great.  The Boston Celtics actually gave Kobe a hard time shooting (a preview of what the Celtics can do in the Finals), but he hit the most important shot.  The gamewinner against Ray Allen…
A clutch three-pointer against the Memphis Grizzlies when he returned to the line-up after a brief hiatus due to injury.
Kobe was not yet finished. His sixth gamewinner came against the second meeting with the Toronto Raptors…
He’s just amazing.  Sure, he missed another gamewinner attempt at Orlando (and the first game against the Raptors).  But these six were just awesome.

In the playoffs, he carried his team against tough opponents.  His offense was mediocre in the first round against Oklahoma Thunder, but when he got the swelling in his knee drained, we finally got the old explosive Kobe back.  And when he started guarding Russell Westbrook and neutralized him, the Lakers took control of the series.  Kobe would play his usual good defense throughout the playoffs, justifying another selection in the All-Defensive First Team.  In the second round, he led the Lakers to sweep the Utah Jazz.  Then in probably Kobe’s best individual statics playoff series ever, the Lakers took out a rejuvenated Phoenix Suns in six games. 

In the Finals, the Kobe went against the toughest defense he encountered in the playoffs,  that though he would score, the Celtics made sure it was not easy baskets.  Especially in Game 7, which probably his worst playoff offensive game ever.  Let us remember, though, that almost all players, not only Kobe, in that Game 7 shot badly considering the tough, grinding and awesome defense of both Lakers and Celtics.  But though the Celtics defense made it hard for him to score in the series, however, most of the time, he encouraged the Laker ball movement, energized offense and defense, and his mere presence disrupted Celtics defensive strategy that made it possible for Laker plays to happen.  And he just did everything he can.  Even in that terrible Game 7, when his offensive game was not working, he did what he had to do as he crashed the boards and got 15 rebounds, played his usual awesome defense, and hit the crucial free throws in the last quarter.  He would win Finals MVP in the end, not because of monster statistics but because of his usual heart.  Not because he carried the Lakers in Game 7 but because he is the most prominent Laker – being a presence and motivation for his teammates, thus they instead carried him.  Kobe acknowledges this.  He admitted he owes his teammates.  Though he probably has the best and consistent averages in the Lakers throughout the series, he is not the Laker who made the most impact in their wins (though, of course he contributed major impact, but just not the most impact), that would be Pau Gasol. And he also acknowledges this.  He gives credit to whom credit is due.  During the presentation of the Finals MVP to him, he complemented and acknowledged that everything would not had been possible if not for Pau Gasol, thus as if implying that Pau is more than worthy to be an alternative for Finals MVP (or even the real Finals MVP as to some people’s book), and at least in that way, he “shares” the Finals MVP with Pau. 

Let’s consider Kobe’s performance in Game 7, if the Lakers lost, his legacy would take a sharp dive.  Maybe Laker fans would hate him and blame him for the loss, or branding him a “choker”, suffering the same treatment of Magic Johnson (when he was called “Tragic” Johnson) during his Laker team’s loss in his first Finals match-up with Larry Bird’ Celtics.  Pau and the others saved him from this fate in Game 7 and instead earned him another ring and Finals MVP for his legend.     Kobe Bryant knows how close he was from this and deeply appreciates Pau and the rest of his teammates more than ever.  Nonetheless, Kobe deserves the Finals MVP award since he's still the best player of the Finals and he made most of the Laker's plays happen throughout the series. But he had lots of help to get it.


Oh, Kobe Bryant can act all impervious to hype and excitement of the Boston-Laker rivalry, or the “revenge on the Celtics” arch, or winning without Shaq.  He acts and talks like it was just a regular Finals series to him.  Nothing more.   Of course, we know he is lying (long before he admitted it after the series).  But we forgive him because he had to lie.  It is part of not getting it all to his head and having and maintaining great focus.  That awesome Kobe focus and mental strength was greatly epitomized by this epic scene during Game One of the Finals:
Chris Rock doing a private show for Kobe and the latter just ignoring the former’s jokes.  Rock probably had been giving one of his funniest stand-up comedies to Kobe but he remained undistracted.  It was like Kobe was unconscious of everything but the game.  Such mental focus is awesome.  But when it is all over, he finally let his defense down.  The trademark cold and focused scowl broke and turned into a smile overflowing with joy.  He admitted that he lied and does appreciate the Lakers-Celtics rivalry since he was a student of the game and just shunned about it during the series to maintain his focus.  He was bursting with delight that he let it slipped that he “…got one more than Shaq… take that to the bank.”  But what I like most about this Kobe Bryant is although he is a proud man – because he needed to show no weaknesses in the journey – he is ready to show humility and honesty when he finally lets his defense down after getting the goal.  He showed great relief and appreciation, as he admitted that his teammates carried him and saved his legend from taking a dive in that Game 7.                    

There you go, why he’s my favorite (and why I think he’s better than LeBron James, at least, for the present).  He’s an all-around player.  He led the Lakers to another title, and a championship is a greater achievement than any individual award.  He has the heart and determination to continually push himself to improve and furnish his skills.  He has a high basketball IQ, and not only smart but Batman-smart.  He has great mental focus and does not shun away at the pressure of taking big shots, whether he’ll be considered a hero if he makes them or the scapegoat if they lose (at least, during a game), though we saw him at the brink of losing this mental toughness in the Final’s Game 7.   Moreover, he gives credit to whom credit is due and shows appreciation to those who help him get his goals.    

What’s left for Kobe?  He’s still not finished.  I know he still hungers for more championships.  As, a fan, I do, too.  I want the Lakers to get more championships, ultimately surpassing the Boston Celtics’ banners.   And I think he can lead the Lakers to not only one more championship but two or three more before he retires.  He still has time.  During his sit-down interview with Rick, Brent, and Steve after Game 7 of the Finals, one of those three said, “Get on with the party.  Enjoy number 5… You’re only 31 years old, Kobe. You and these guys are coming back for three more years.”  And Kobe replied, “I love hearing that.  As the season… as the playoff started, it was ‘Oh, my God.  He’s 31 years old. He’s done!’ Now, ‘He’s only 31.’  I’m loving it.”

PAU GASOL

It seems blasphemous now that years ago, I once considered Kevin Garnett, which by then was still playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves, as the perfect player to join Kobe Bryant in the Lakers.  Pau Gasol was just my second choice by then (and Dirk Nowitzki as third).   Of course, by then Garnett was still a great player and Gasol still lacking the spotlight at him.   But when Garnett went to the Celtics, and Gasol was obtained by the Lakers, I saw the error of my opinion.  When Pau finally got to the Lakers, people start to give him attention and saw how great he is.  In the Lakers’ complicated triangle system, an intellectual and finesse player like Pau thrived.  Pau is definitely a better – maybe even the best available – complement to Kobe.

Pau Gasol is the best big man in the NBA today.  And that comes from Kobe Bryant’s own mouth, as Kobe complements and acknowledges Pau as much as he can.  Pau is sort of a big-man version of Kobe.  Many people say that Pau has the best pivot in the league and there is a reason for that.  He moves with grace.  His arsenal almost rivals Kobe’s.  He is versatile and has high basketball IQ.  No wonder Kobe easily connects with him.  Of course, a player of Gasol’s caliber – graceful and classy – was labeled soft after the ’08 Finals. He plays with intellect and finesse, and that does not work against Garnett’s toughness and bullying.  After that defeat, Gasol worked out in the gym and toughened himself.  He learned how he can be both smart and cunning and both graceful and tough, like Kobe.  By next season, he now knows how to play tough, which he combined with his usual game.  The Lakers swept the season series against the Celtics and won against the Orlando Magic in the ’09 NBA Finals, in which Pau’s tough defense on Dwight Howard was a huge factor.  And this season, Pau got his revenge on Kevin Garnett and the Celtics.

Kobe Bryant might be the best Laker player in the NBA Finals – taking all 7 games into account – in the sense he has the highest scoring average.  However, in the four games the Lakers won, Pau Gasol has the most impact.  Thus, he is as deserving as, or even more so, than Kobe Bryant as the Finals MVP.  And Kobe knows this.  In 2008, in an interview with Kobe after he won the regular-season MVP award, he was asked what might be the difference between the previous seasons (where he was an offensive juggernaut) and that present season that made it possible for him to finally win the MVP.  Kobe’s reply was simple. “We now have Pau Gasol,” he replied with an appreciative laugh.  It is the same thing when Kobe received his second Finals MVP, he complemented and acknowledged Gasol.   Kobe was as if saying that, in a way, Pau Gasol made it possible not only for the Lakers to win the championship, but making it possible for Kobe to be the Finals MVP, that though Gasol is worthy to be Finals MVP, Pau indirectly gave it to Kobe.

I believe that Kobe wants to return the favor to Pau.  Probably, when Kobe is ready to take the back seat in the Laker scheme, he would do what he can do to help Pau get individual honors for himself and to help cement Pau’s own legacy.  Maybe Kobe would start next season in the All-Star game in Staples Center.  He might orchestrate the game to make it possible for Pau to get the All-Star MVP.  And he might, this time, make sure that the next Finals MVP next season would now go to Pau (if the Lakers successfully win their third straight).  But I think Kobe is still not yet ready to yield the regular-season MVP award to Pau, though.  Much as it is true that if Kobe is given a choice between a championship and an MVP award, he would choose the championship, it doesn’t mean he does not want another MVP (or two or three).  He definitely likes getting it, but compared to a championship, it is irrelevant to him.  But, as I’ve said, when Kobe is ready to step back, he would concentrate on building Gasol’s own legend.

I start to appreciate this Kobe-Pau tandem more than the Kobe-Shaq tandem, though the latter is still greater.  It is because Kobe has a better relationship with Pau than what he had with Shaq.  Hopefully, their partnership would become more legendary.  Hopefully, their tandem would continue hoisting banners at Staples Center.


THE REST OF THE LAKERS


By playing great games in the playoffs and Finals, Derek Fisher justified remaining in the starter lineup even though he was considered the weak point of the Laker first five and was not making an impact throughout most of the season.  Truly, he is the master of intangibles.  Though, I don’t think he’ll remain in the starting line-up next season, I know he’ll still remain relevant from the bench, contributing his “intangibles” and experience.  The question is who would fill Fish’s point guard spot in the first five?

Lamar Odom will never be an all-star.  But I hope he’ll get some sort of honor, too.  Maybe a sixth-man award.  But for that to happen, he should play consistently.  This season (as were the previous seasons), there are times he is an awesome X-factor.  But there are also times he is frustrating to watch, not playing to his full potential and just playing passively.  Hopefully, he’ll play like an excellent “sixth-man of the year” next season so he can win that award.

It’s a pity Andrew Bynum is plagued by an injury again this season.  Health is a major factor for the Lakers to win the championship again next year.  Bynum and Bryant and the others should be 100%.  Hopefully, they’ll fully recover for next season.  Hopefully, too, we’ll finally see the “future of Lakerdom” in Bynum very soon.  If what he had already been demonstrating in the previous seasons is already his peak, it is best to trade him.  But I think a little bit more of patience would do to trick.  Maybe a healthy Bynum would finally bloom next season and we’ll be confident the Lakers are in good hands after Kobe retires.

Ron Artest is definitely an upgrade over Trevor Ariza in the defensive end, though not in the offensive end.  I was a bit of a doubter on what Ron can bring to the Lakers as I was hoping Ariza would continue improving as a Laker.  But Artest, though sometimes not meeting the actual expectations during the season, did proved his worth.  Especially in that critical Game 7, where he made true in his word to Kobe after the Lakers lost to the Celtics in 2008, that he’ll make sure it’ll never happen again if he became a Laker.  Ron-Ron deserves the ring he won.  And has a right to thank anybody he wants to thank (which was just everybody around him) and do or say crazy things he thinks of in any interview.

My favorite bench player would be Sasha “The Machine” Vujacic.  He used to be a consistent three-point specialist and pesky defender during the 07-08 season.  However, he kind of fell from grace the following season, and since then remained inconsistent.  But even though he has his faults, I like him because he is proud to be a Laker and it reflects every time – when playing on the court, when high-fiving Kobe and the others, when cheering from the bench, or when hitting fellow Serbian Goran Dragic with an elbow.  Plus, I still believe he can still return to that “The Machine” mode he once had during 07-08.   He also did great in Games 6 and 7 in the Finals, being a “stopper” against any Celtic run in Game 6 and icing Game 7 for the Lakers.             

And it’s not only Sasha who never recovered from that great 07-08 season for the bench, but the rest of them.  The Lakers used to have the best bench in the league and it was christened the Bench Mob.  That’s another factor for another championship.  Just imagine how invincible the Lakers would be with the current starting five and a newly rejuvenated Bench Mob.  It is very probable though that the bench’s lineup would change next season.  I am feeling Kirk Hinrich, Michael Redd, and Peja Stojakovic, or any of that effect as the next Laker bench line-up.  If ever Jordan Farmar, Shannon Brown, and the rest are let go by the Lakers, the Laker management and Laker fans are still grateful on what they contributed and wishes them luck on their future endeavors.


And the most important factor of all for another title run?  The return of Phil Jackson as coach.   Indeed, it would be critical that the team next season to still have the same leadership and basketball philosophy to win another championship. Kobe wants him back.  The Laker fans want him back.  He needs to come back.  Though, the Zen Master has nothing to prove anymore.  He already has 11 championships as a coach – two more than any other coach in NBA history.   But, still, hopefully he would come back.  He does not win championships in twos, he wins them in threes.

THE LAKER GIRLS


Still the best NBA franchise’s cheerleaders in history.  I got nothing more to say.  Just that they are another (major) reason to love the Lakers.

BOSTON CELTICS


Close, but no cigar.
               
I have to hate them since I’m a Laker fan.  But I respect them also.  It’s not hard to appreciate them.  They worked hard and fought a good fight.  As underdogs, they proved their critics wrong that they were already “old news.”  Even though they lost, their run was worth applauding.  Nobody was expecting the 4th seed Celtics to get through the East playoffs.  They stunned the Cavs and the Magic.  I was actually rooting for them in the East to win.  And I thank them that they succeeded in setting the stage on what I wanted: them getting beaten by the Lakers in a Finals rematch. 

THE FANS


The Laker fans watching in Staples Center on Games 6 and 7 was the loudest and most enthusiastic I had ever seen since the 2002 Conference Finals against the Sacramento Kings.  Laker fans became sort of numbed after the franchise’s successes, that they become almost passive and unenergetic during games.   Laker fans are only excited by championships.  Anything less is failure.  Thus, by such high standard, they treat a game with not much excitement.  But their enthusiasm during the last two games of the Finals was a big factor on energizing the Lakers on winning the championship.   Phil Jackson is right, they couldn’t have won without the fans.  And Magic Johnson is also right, we Laker fans are the best fans in the world.  Because our hearts are exhilarated or broken along with each Laker make or break.

Which brings me to the “fans” emerging every time the playoffs and Finals come.  I don’t like bandwagoners.  Oh, it’s okay to support a team during the Finals season.  But there are those who only become “fans” during the playoffs and Finals, and arrogantly claim that they were fans all along, all the way from the start, pretending to know everything about NBA and stats and history and all that jazz when actually they know nothing and had only became fans after a team’s recent success.  Such arrogance mixed with such ignorance always annoys me. 

I accept those Boston fans that hates the Lakers.  They should.  And the NBA fans who hates the Lakers has the right to choose to hate the Lakers.   But it is because these fans are familiar with the NBA, so they are familiar with how the Lakers can be polarizing, making you either to hate them or love them.  They found reasons to hate them during their existence as fans of the NBA.  Like the Lakers are just full of Hollywood "glitz and glamor" and conceit.  That's valid.  Though this makes it hard for us Laker fans, we accept them since these fans are real NBA fans and are entitled to such opinions.  Now these bandwagoners only have blind hatred. They are never familiar with how it goes in the NBA, thus they are not familiar with the Lakers, and thus not having a reason at all on hating them.  These bandwagoners hate the Lakers, just because they are the Lakers.  Just baseless hate.  Really annoying.  So they just support any team that the Lakers face in a series.

And, yes, being a Laker fan makes Taylor Swift hotter.

       
LEBRON JAMES


Oh, stop being a crybaby, LeBron.  You’ll get your ring soon.  Hahaha.  The fan in me just can’t help it. 

The last part, a sort of epilogue, on these thoughts on the recently finished Laker 2010 season is about the second best player in the NBA, LeBron James.  As an NBA fan, I also like and appreciate LeBron James as a player.  Indeed, there is a reason why some consider him the best (though, he’s not).  His play is almost as awesome as Kobe, and maybe more entertaining with all those powerful dunks, blind passes, and blocks coming out of nowhere.  Oh, I already said that he can be the best someday.

But I notice that LeBron seems to kind of always wanting the spotlight on him.  It is, of course, ego.  But it is acceptable since all stars in the NBA have ego, even Kobe.  But what LeBron does to catch attention for himself is sometimes aggravating.  With this incoming free agency buzz this offseason of a crop of great talents like James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire, and Joe Johnson, in which LeBron is the most prominent of the bunch, he seems to be creating his own buzz in an effort to steal the show from the NBA Finals.  
Not exactly like this, but almost of the same effect (He failed in the attempt.  The Finals earned the highest TV ratings since 1998).  He seems to want the attention diverted from the Finals to the drama of his free agency.  Oh, LeBron has been hyping about it since 2007.  But what he is doing right now to draw attention to himself is a bit too narcissistic.   He appeared in Larry King Live just to talk about it.  He organized some sort of conference among the free agents to discuss about their free agency plans.  “I’m the ringleader,” he said.  But as columnist Adrian Wojnarowski points out, “only, he has no rings.”   


Wondahbap, a Laker blog writer, wrote: “"Staying on LeBron, I'm finding him increasingly more annoying everyday to the point of dislike. I try to like him. I watch him often. I admire his game, and don't want to make this seem like a Kobe over Lebron hatefest, but he's just so corny sometimes. And arrogant. Probably insecure. At times phony. Defintely a frontrunner. Some people accuse Kobe of all of these things, and they probably have valid points. It just proves how corny LeBron can be, because he straight-up copycats everything Kobe does. Kobe takes a book from MJ's page and relishes games in Madison Square Garden? Here comes LeBron tagging along. It's so special to him all of a sudden. Kobe changes his number? LeBron wants to change his. Kobe has a penchant for sometimes taking ill advised three-point shots? LeBron takes stupid threes more and more. Kobe puts on the serious face and steely demeanor during the playoffs? Now dancing, air camera, picture taking LeBron decides it's time to play no games and get all stone faced. Now the elbow? Seriously, I don't believe his elbow hurts for a minute. He watches Kobe get this praise for being a tough-as-nails warrior, so he has to overdramatize an elbow injury enough to make Paul Pierce want to sue for infringement. So LeBron's elbow hurts so bad, he has to shoot a free throw left handed. Right. Pun intended. He sure seemed like he was having a hard time keeping a straight face filling us with his crap. Boo frickety hoo."


I used to ignore (though I enjoy) those kinds of criticisms.  But when he started promoting the drama of his free agency when the playoffs was still going on, I started to believe all those criticisms were true.  Nonetheless, he is a superstar.  And his presence in the league and the stories and hype he creates are entertaining and fun.

The best LeBron story though is still this “Who is better? Kobe or LeBron?” debate, which is very enjoyable to fans of either superstar.  It is probably as exciting as the Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird debate.  Maybe even more so.  Did the Magic-Bird have puppets?
Yup.  The Kobe and LeBron rivalry might not be the most exciting (it’s still Magic vs. Bird), but it’s the most entertaining.  After finally dismantling the Celtics, I now want Kobe to face LeBron in the Finals.  But not with a boring franchise like the Cavaliers, no.  This Finals should be special.  A showdown that would be legendary.  Thus, LeBron should have a perfect team.  A team that is one of the most exciting franchises in the NBA, located in a major city and having a fan base as enthusiastic and loyal as the Laker fans.  And that team should have the Biggest Stage of Them All. 
That would be the New York Knicks.  It’s time that LeBron and the Knicks should have some success together.  Kobe vs. LeBron.  Lakers vs. Knicks.  Los Angeles vs. New York.  With this, the rivalry would become more entertaining and probably become the most exciting in the history of the NBA.

It is ironic that though Kobe is Batman, LeBron is the one I want to go to Gotham.  Nonetheless, join the New York Knicks, LeBron, and lead them to the top of the East.  Kobe and his Los Angeles Lakers would be waiting.  Bring it on.

1 comment:

chuck said...

great writing. checked the other entries, too. mostly good.