Thursday, June 4, 2009

Kobe Aims to Cut Short Finals Losing Streak

This is the second time I've written about the NBA Finals this week. I hope it's not beating it to death, but that seems impossible when you're dealing with Kobe Bryant on basketball's grandest stage. The guy's been there five times, going on six. It's safe to say that he knows his stuff.

The only problem: he lost his last two appearances and his last solo appearance (that is minus Shaq) after going 3-1 with Shaq by his side.

Losing one Finals appearance isn't much to criticize the guy about. Ask Jim Kelly and the Buffalo Bills- they lost four Super Bowls in a row…back to back to back to back. That's got to sting. So when you put it into perspective, Kobe's latest failures in the Finals and playoffs don't define his post-Shaq career, and I'm sure he'd appreciate it if we all stopped comparing his Lakers to the Shaq/Kobe Lakers of the earlier part of the decade.

Kobe now has the opportunity to prove once and for all that he does not need the Big Diesel/Shaqtus/Big Aristotle/etc. to win a championship.

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Hold on a second, though. Shaq traded Kobe and sunny L.A. for Dwyane Wade and sunny Miami. He made it to the Eastern Finals in his first year with the Heat and then won the championship in 2006, much to the credit of Wade's refusal to lose Game 3.

In Phoenix, Shaq has not had been the greatest success story, I mean the Suns didn't even make the playoffs this season.

So, let's see here: after Kobe and Shaq's breakup, both have missed the playoffs once and each made it to the Finals once. The only difference being that Shaq and Wade beat a Dallas Mavericks team unable to handle adversity and Kobe and his Lakers lost to a Boston Celtics team playing brick wall defense and consisting of three future Hall of Famers.

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Leaving L.A. for Miami was easy for Shaq. He had a young, budding superstar by his side, who was made much better by the presence of Shaq of course, but took over the Finals in such a way that it garnered him comparisons to all-time great Michael Jordan.

Things were not so easy for Kobe when Shaq left. He was left without a big man and the ever-important second option worthy of drawing defenses and double teams. That is, until Pau Gasol arrived gift wrapped with a bow on his head at Kobe's doorstep. With Pau by his side, Kobe made it to the NBA Finals and, guess what, the duo is returning to the Finals tonight. And you can bet that Kobe is out to draw first blood and ultimately prove once and for all that it was not the absence of Shaq that has plagued the Lakers, but a lack of help that prevented Kobe from claiming basketball's ultimate prize once again.


So what's the lesson here?

Kobe has been treated unfairly by the media in his post-Shaq years. The media couldn't stop portraying him as weak and hopeless without Shaq. I guess the obvious lesson is that it takes two to be great. Wade went down with injuries and Shaq couldn't carry the Heat to another championship, or the playoffs in 2008. Shaq skipped town when things got tough and Wade couldn't get the Heat out of the first round this season. Shaq has Steve Nash and Amare Stoudamire in Phoenix, but with confusion about their playing style a major problem, the Suns have failed to produce a consistent playmaker night after night. And Stoudamire has been plagued with injuries.

Need more proof that you need a legitimate second option to win a championship? LeBron James.

Written By Danny Hobrock

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