Bob on 03 12, 2009
I’d like to apologize for the length of this article, but this topic can not be summed up briefly. Alright folks, before I get torn to shreds, hear me out when I say don’t believe the hype about Kobe Bryant. By no means am I saying that Kobe is a bad player or even just a good player. He has a world of talent, and anyone who can drop 81 in a game has to be respected by any fan of basketball, or sports in general. However, Kobe is given way too much credit for the Lakers success, and his ego has prevented him from making the leap from great to legendary.
Kobe has exposed his Achilles’ heel, that is, the absence of Shaquille O’Neal – in my opinion, the best big man in the history of the game. Without a ‘Shaqalicious’ in his prime, Bryant has failed to snatch another ‘ship since the Lakers 3-peat(’00 –’02). Who was the Finals MVP all 3 of these championship years? Not the adored Kobe Bryant who is hyped up beyond belief, it was in fact, ‘THE DIESEL.’
All these fans that praise Kobe and have the audacity to compare him to ‘His Airness,’ Michael Jordan, need to realize just how much of his success is due to an exceptionally dominant ‘Shaq Fu.’ To further illustrate just how dominant Shaq was (and proving this season that he still is); look at what he did for the Miami Heat. O’Neal promised fans he would bring a championship to a dismal Miami Heat team with a promising young star in Dwayne Wade. His first year there, Shaq and Wade took the Heat to the Eastern Conference Finals. The following year, ‘The Big Daddy’ stayed true to his word and delivered a title to Pat Riley’s Miami Heat.
On top of Kobe being praised too much for his team’s success, he is not given adequate responsibility for the team’s lack of success. After O’Neal’s departure to Miami in ‘04, the Lakers started sandbagging it and failed to make the playoffs. The following season the Lakers made the playoffs, but were ousted by the Suns in the first round. This trend followed the ensuing season, as LA was again thrown out of the playoffs by Phoenix in round 1. We didn’t hear much about Kobe Bryant and his role in LA’s plunge from the top during these harsh times. Funny how things work.
Kobe and his Lakers made it back to the Finals last season for the first time since 2004, but were unable to get it done against the Boston Celtics and their ‘Big Three.’ Bryant won his first MVP last season, strengthening my claim that he is praised too much for his team’s success. Before you get your panties, boxers what have you in a bunch, let me explain myself. Kobe did have an excellent season; I’m not taking that away from him. But come on, look at the supporting cast.
The Lakers brought Derek Fisher back, an important contributor of LA’s previous 3 titles. He brings experience, leadership, the ability to knock down a big shot and is a proven veteran, a vital piece of the puzzle in building a championship team. After Andrew Bynum’s season ending injury, who has come into his own and is emerging as LA’s next dominant big man, LA made a trade to acquire superstar Pau Gasol from Memphis. Bryant, Gasol and Fisher, alongside flex-man Lamar Odom and one of the NBA’s deepest benches makes for a pretty potent lineup. I’d make the case that LA’s bench, one which includes Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic, Luke Walton and Trevor Ariza, is the deepest and most effective bench in the league.
When I think of the Most Valuable Player, I like to visualize taking that player off the team, and envisioning a team that would fail to win games with the absence of that player. Take Kobe off the Lakers, and they would still win games. Take LeBron off the Cavs or Wade off the Heat? Not a snowball’s chance in hell.
Anyways, my argument is not that he shouldn’t have been MVP, it is that he is given too much credit for LA’s achievements, and vice versa. Currently, LA has arguably the most dangerous roster from top to bottom in the NBA, and these role players should be given just as much credit. When Kobe was asked to put the team on his back in the ’04-’05 season(where they failed to make the postseason), he couldn’t do it. Phil Jackson called him ‘uncoachable.’ Not exactly what you want to hear from a head coach. He does have the ability to take over a game, but is too selfish. Bryant has definitely come a long way though. I’d say starting last season is when he really started making drastic improvements on being a complete team player, but with the talent surrounding him, he should be giving up the rock instead of forcing a contested shot.
If we’re going to over exaggerate Kobe and his contributions to the Lakers success, and even put him in the same category as MJ, then he is not alone. Players like LeBron and D. Wade should be mentioned in this category as well. When LeBron was given little talent to work with, he took his squad to the Finals, and have you seen what Dwayne Wade is doing this year? These guys are the poster boys of ‘team player,’ making a lot out of a little. Kobe has come along way from his ‘uncoachable’ self, but it might be too late if he wants to have his name mentioned in the same breath as Air Jordan.
Kobe’s raw basketball talent is unparalleled, but his ego has prohibited him from reaching maximum potential. He should be kissing Shaq’s behind for his previous success, and now with the most potent lineup in the NBA, the Lakers are back to being serious contenders. If the Lakers win it all this year, don’t be surprised, and if they do win a title, please refrain from the excessive Kobe chatter.