Just as the NHL got a dream match up to boost their ratings, the NBA finalists have now been declared and networks probably couldn’t have scripted a better set up: The Boston Celtics against the L.A. Lakers. Surely in the lead up, we’re going to see many old clips of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, and I admittedly will be one of those soaking up the nostalgia and memories past. There is no hesitancy in throwing myself in the corner of Magic and trying to live through his leadership, unselfishness, and passion for the game.
As for today, and Kobe Bryant, I don’t know what to feel? I won’t know until tip off of Game 1, but I think I am leaning towards cheering for the Celtics even though I have never supported them in the past. They are still the Lakers, the colors of their famous jerseys still the same, but why can’t I see myself jumping into Kobe’s arms like the way I used to imagine myself in Magic’s embrace? With Kobe, it’s definitely look before you leap. Think twice, three times, even more, before committing, if ever. Why?
Well, he definitely seems much matured from even a season ago and certainly from during his championship years with Shaquille O-Neal. Perhaps he realizes that he is hitting his peak age soon, and it won’t be long until his enormous physical skills slowly start to elude him. Perhaps it is this urgency that makes him realize the foolishness to waste time on egos, images, incessant complaining, and instead utilize his immense skills before the window of opportunity passes. Or perhaps, players just learn as they get older to be better teammates, more unselfish, and see the bigger picture without wasting energy resisting the little things.
Still, however, I can’t help but question the reasons for his dramatic turn. Why does he look so happy, at ease with himself, relaxed, and so supportive of his teammates? Is this his maturity or is it because his current teammates wouldn’t dare stand up to him or take too much of the spotlight away from him? Certainly none of them have the stature that Shaq would command.
And is it because the rest of the Lakers usually defer to Kobe as the undisputed leader and superstar that allows Kobe to express to the media that the team is a family of brothers? What happens when there comes an intense moment in the final when a teammate, or another brother, wants to take center stage for the betterment of the team? Would Kobe be okay with this? Will there be resistance? What happens when they come across adversity and a brother is in disagreement with Kobe? This will be a truer test of Kobe’s new found maturity and development.
Kobe, has on more than one occasion hinted quite directly that the past championship Laker teams were quite dysfunctional. Was this a shot at Shaq? And is he implying that if they win this year, it would be a ‘functional’ win, or a more meaningful win to him personally because he was able to do it his way? Does ‘functional’ mean Kobe being at the helm? And does ‘dysfunctional’ mean sharing co-star roles with Shaq?
Is this also partly why Kobe is so effusive in his praise of his current teammates, to heighten the contrast from previous years, and to prove he can lead a team to a championship without Shaq’s help?
In the end, maybe I’m reading too much into it, and it really doesn’t matter as long as the team wins. Maybe I am being overly critical, as perhaps Kobe is the great superstar that he is because he wants to be in control, in a position to exert his dominance, and create circumstances and surroundings that allow him to successfully express his talent. He would probably want to fail on his terms rather than have the ball taken out of his hands and risk losing because he didn’t instill his will.
I really don’t know what to feel anymore. Is it fair to say I would love him on my team, but maybe not as a brother? I don’t know if that is my conclusion or not. I really don’t know. It is not easy being a sports fan and watching a game can lead one to be torn in many directions. That is why I absolutely love sports!
Enjoy the Finals!