On June 17th Kobe Bryant won his fifth NBA championship ring by leading the Los Angeles Lakers to an 89 – 73 game seven victory over the Boston Celtics. With his fifth championship, discussions have started about Kobe’s place in basketball and Laker history. Does this championship make Kobe a greater Laker than Earvin “Magic” Johnson? Does this championship put Kobe one ring away from being as good as Michael Jordan? These questions have many answers that can be supported by statistics, history, and highlight reels, however there are a group of people who choose to ignore all the evidence and on court history. These people are called Kobe Haters.
Kobe Haters are individuals who possess an enormous amount of disdain for No. 24. Some hate Kobe because of his shoot first mentality. Some hate Kobe because of his arrogance and the childish attitude that broke up a Laker dynasty, and some hate Kobe for what happened in Colorado.
The biggest reason people seem to hate Kobe Bryant is because of the similarities to the movements and mannerisms of Michael Jordan. Ever since Kobe entered the NBA in 1996 Kobe haters have scolded him for trying to be like Mike. However, since Micheal Jordan has retired Kobe Bryant has been the best basketball player on the planet.
The post-Jordan NBA was hungry for another fierce competitor with an immeasurable will to win. The stand outs of the post-Jordan NBA were champions like the quiet Tim Duncan and the jovial Shaquille O’Neal. Although Kobe and Shaq won championships together, Shaq was the dominant force in their three peat from 2000 – 2002. In 2004, when Kobe attempted to lead the Lakers to another championship against the Detroit Pistons, his teammates did not follow. The team full of veterans led by Shaq and coaching great, Phil Jackson, were not happy with the “selfish” actions of the young star.
After the 2004 finals, Kobe haters all let out a collective “I told you so”. The following season, Kobe and the Lakers did not qualify for the playoffs, and spent the next two seasons being eliminated in the first round. However, what Kobe haters do not realize is that during this down time, Kobe was humbled by his team’s failure. In 2006, Kobe was forced to watch his old teammate/rival, Shaq, win a fourth championship with an up and coming (humble) superstar shooting guard in Dwyane Wade. The early playoff exits and off court troubles led to a Kobe transformation.
During the 2007-08 season, Kobe’s game changed. He still remained the main scorer for the Lakers, but was passing the ball more, and encouraging his teammates to contribute more. This new attitude, plus a new bag of offensive tricks Kobe picked up in the off-season, led the Lakers into the finals against the Celtics.
During the finals, the NBA and the fans finally got to see the competitive fire that made MJ so popular, in Kobe Bryant. Although the Lakers lost, Kobe’s passion was on full display with no sound bites from Shaq to drown it out.
Kobe Bryant has a will to win that is unmatched in pro sports. Even though Kobe is on the wrong side of 30, he approaches every season with a new tool to take the stress off of a body that has millions of basketball miles on it. Most importantly Kobe is on a team full of (young) veterans that now follow his lead.
So Kobe haters, stop your hating and appreciate a quality of basketball we may never see again.
The round of 32 is over and we have arrived in the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet Sixteen. The tournament so far has provided us with unexpected upsets, overtime games, and thrilling buzzer beaters. The darlings of this year’s tournament are the Panthers from the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) and the Ivy League’s Cornell Big Red.
The ninth seeded Panthers have defeated both UNLV and the tournament’s overall number one seed Kansas on their path to the sweet sixteen. UNI has been led by senior guard Ali Farokhmanesh who has carried his team with some clutch three points shots.
The 12th seeded Big Red have defeated Temple and Wisconsin, each by double-digit margins, to make it to the round of 16. Cornell has been led in scoring during the tournament by senior guard Louis Dale and have had senior forward Ryan Wittman and senior center Jeff Foote patrolling the paint.
Both the Panthers and Big Red have monumental challenges ahead of them in the Sweet Sixteen
Cornell will be going up against the freshman phenom/highlight producing John Wall and the number one-seeded Kentucky Wildcats. Since the Jayhawks were eliminated, Kentucky has become the favorite to win this year’s national championship. Kentucky has faced very little opposition during the tournament. The Wildcats defeated East Tennessee State University and Wake Forest by an average of about 30 points. Cornell’s size inside will make Kentucky’s Patrick Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins work hard for every bucket. However, the talent and fire power that Kentucky possesses with Wall and Eric Bledsoe in the back court will propel them into the Elite Eight.
UNI will face off against Tom Izzo‘s Michigan State Spartans. Tom Izzo has been one of the most successful college coaches over the past 10 years. Izzo has led the Spartans to five Final Four appearances and a national championship in 2000. The Spartans have been impressive during the tournament and ended their second round game against the Maryland Terrapins with a game winning three pointer by sophomore guard Korie Lucious (who also had 13 points). Michigan State will be playing without their star junior guard Kalin Lucas, who tore his Achilles tendon against Maryland. Although junior guard Durrell Summers picked up some of the scoring slack by dropping 26 against the Terrapins, the Spartans will have to rely heavily on Luscious who is not as good offensively as Lucas. The absence of their floor general will be too much for the Spartans to overcome as Northern Iowa will advance to the Elite Eight.
The other teams advancing to the Elite Eight will be Ohio State over Tennessee, St. Mary’s over Baylor, Duke over Purdue, Syracuse over Butler, West Virginia over Washington, and Kansas State over Xavier.
What an opening round! The number three seed in the Midwest Region, Georgetown was upset by the 14 seed Ohio University. This was by far the biggest upset of the opening round. As expected all four number one seeds made it to the round of 32 and did so in dominating fashion. Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and Syracuse won by an average margin of about 24 points.
The star of the first round was Jimmer Fredette of BYU, who scored 37 points in a 99-92 victory over Florida. The under performer of the tournament was Louisville senior Edgar Sosa. Sosa scored only 8 points and had 3 turnovers in a 77-62 loss to the Cal Golden Bears.
Be back soon with a second round recap.
(AP Photo/Morry Gash)