This season’s version of the NBA playoffs have already featured the elimination of the western conference’s top seeded San Antonio Spurs, a 46 point game from the Orlando Magic’s All-Start center Dwight Howard and a 40-foot three-point bank shot from the Atlanta Hawks sixth man scoring machine Jamal Crawford that helped eliminate Howard’s Magic. The Boston Celtics swept the injury depleted New York Knicks while Kevin Durant lead the Oklahoma City Thunder over the New York Knicks, I mean Denver Nuggets. The championship contending Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls and defending champion Los Angeles Lakers also advanced to the second round.
At the beginning of the season I predicted the south beach marriage of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh would lead the Miami Heat to a championship this season. That prediction was looking pretty bad when the Heat started the season 9-8 and lost their first three match-ups against the defending eastern conference champions, the Boston Celtics. However, the Heat won their last regular season game against Celtics pretty convincingly and now lead the squad from Bean town 2-0 in their eastern semifinal best of 7 series.
The Heat have looked super human and the Celtics have looked their age. While Miami moves up, down and over the court at will, the Celtics have looked…..old. Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are all fighting injuries while Rajon Rondo has looked disinterested on defense the past two games.
The Heat will capture this series in 5 games and will defeat the Chicago Bulls in the eastern conference finals. As long as Carlos Boozer continues to play poorly, the Bulls will have no chance to reach the NBA finals.
According to multiple reports, 15 year NBA veteran Rasheed Wallace has announced that he will be retiring this off-season. Although Wallace is known for his enormous number of technical fouls and outbursts towards referees, he was also one of the premier post players of his generation. Wallace was the best player on the Portland Trailblazers when they were a western conference heavy weight and about 7 minutes away from the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers in 2000. In 2004 he was traded to the Detroit Pistons and played a huge part in getting them into the finals, and upsetting the heavily favored Lakers. As Wallace’s skills diminished, he remained a good post defender and helped the 2010 Boston Celtics get back to the finals.
Unfortunately for ‘Sheed, his championship ring, four All-Star games and 177 playoff games will always be overshadowed by the short fuse he had when it came to the zebras. Wallace will be missed. “Both Teams Played Hard, God Bless and Good Night”.
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.