The Lakers did NOT give my boy B Budd a Happy Birthday last night. . .more like a reminder that getting older is a disheartening proposition. . .and once again, old is exactly who they are at their core; even while playing a victorious style for 46 minutes, it was more reminiscent of the recent Celtics rather than the Showtime Lakers. . .this is a defensive, experienced team and they need to win with grit, toughness, heady play. . .and the ability to close out & hold on in the last two minutes. . .
Et Tu, Kobe? last year we realized that Kobe was indeed on the quote-unquote downside of his career, but when the peak is 10x that of a mortal man, the visions of late-era (pre-Wizards) Jordan are emblazened in Laker fans’ collective minds: he can dominate until he’s 36, at least with that basketball IQ. . .alas, there have been more misses than makes in clutch moments for these past two years, and last night was no different. . .except for the preponderance of those mistakes. . .two turnovers and two misses in those fateful two minutes. . .that’s simply too much to handle. . .
especially on a night where the (seeming) win was a gift. . .fault not Mike Brown, Laker fans, the obvious target of vitriol right now. . .his job – and only talent? – is to coach defense, and that’s exactly what the Lakers did, smothering, swarming & silencing the most explosive offense in the league. . .and while Brown is absolutely clueless with play-calling or instilling offensive discipline & planning, some personnel formances were too porous to overlook. . .
Ramon Sessions was outplayed by Derek Fisher ironically and again. . .I had a difficult time finding out if he played by looking at the box score. . .Sessions totaled two points and ZERO assists. . .ZERO. . .ZERO. . .which is also about as much defensive value as he has. . .it’s not that I fault Sessions, though. . .he is simply not a Laker, much like Yankee fans embrace Nick Swisher and still outcast Alex Rodriguez. . .the pressure of wearing the Purple & Gold is too much for Ramon to handle, and between him and Steve “Big Shot” Blake, you can bet that Kobe would even take the vaunted Smush Parker (anybody?) as his backcourt mate right now. . .
but once again, the frontcourt was nowhere to be found. . yes, Bynum had 20 points and – gasp! – almost a double-double, but Gasol was yet again too content to play third fiddle. . don’t get me wrong, he is and should be third option, but I want to see the fire, I want to see him want to prove that he should be a second option. . .and the first option when he’s out there without Bynum & Kobe. . .holy moly, how many high-block-fake-spin-turn-around-awkward-one-hand-jumpers can a guy shoot. . .and it should be conclusive by now that Bynum just doesn’t have the heart. . .he doesn’t. . .let’s all admit that greatness is not a concern of his. . .
and the Lakers are coming home. . maybe the lackluster Staples crowd can provide a lift. . .or perhaps not. . .as the dreams of achieving something worthwhile in 2011-2012 are slipping away like an errant pass from Sessions. . .
A look at the six players drafted immediately before Kobe Bryant in the 1996 NBA Draft (and yes, it’s been 15 years):
|7||Lorenzen Wright (C)||Los Angeles Clippers||Memphis-So.|
|8||Kerry Kittles (SG)||New Jersey Nets||Villanova-Sr.|
|9||Samaki Walker (PF)||Dallas Mavericks||Louisville-So.|
|10||Erick Dampier (C)||Indiana Pacers||Mississippi State-Jr.|
|11||Todd Fuller (C)||Golden State Warriors||NC State-Sr.|
|12||Vitaly Potapenko (C)||Cleveland Cavaliers||Wright State-Jr.|
|13||Kobe Bryant* (SG)||Charlotte Hornets||Lower Merion HS|
Here’s looking at you, Todd Fuller:
Thank you Bob Bass. Jerry West, you’re a genius.
. . .Kobe is in the gym right now shooting jumpers and working on left-handed post moves.
THAT, my friends, is what it takes to truly be legendary.
. . or what Kobe should say:
“Not much to say here, guys. We know the situation, and we put ourselves in this predicament. But we’re Home now. This is our floor, and our war, and we’re going to win. I’ll personally see to that. And I’m not talking 81 here – I know that I’ve taken some ill-advised shots; I realize that I’ve demanded the ball, been a little unsupportive at times. . .. . but I want to win, dammit. And we ALL should want to win.
“Lamar, I love you like a brother. . .but right now I’m talking about YOU. You’re bored, you’re mentally absent. . .you’re playing your way out of the City, my man. I see it in your face, I see it in the locker room – you’re distracted
“Maybe it’s me – maybe I just need to love you and coddle you. . .but it’s time you STEP back up and play like you are capable of playing. I’m not asking you to do that every day; you can go back to Khloe, go back to Miami in the off-season. Just give me TWO games. . .
“And Ronnie, my beloved RonRon. I’m not asking you to be Ronnie Pippen, and I’m definitely not asking you to be Dennis Rodman, but something in between would be nice. You know, kind of like you were in Indiana, Sacramento and even Houston – what happened to the Artest that would intimidate the sternest foes in the league, the Ronnie that could throw an elbow and rip a steal on one end and finish with a pull-up J so ugly that only a momma could love it?
My point is, you can BUST, my man – you are indeed a gifted offensive basketball player. . .you dropped 20 a game in Sactown for an entire season! Forget Phil, forget the Malice in the Palace, forget Plaschke. . .be YOU. Make Queensbridge proud, Son.”
“Pau, you were holding your own. You are soft, but let’s be honest – you stepped it up and you won us a Title, and for that I’ll forever be thankful. But we know you outsmarted Howard & Co. This is the Celtics. Kendrick and Big Baby and KG – they know how to box, they know how to body and they damn sure know how to play. And last game worried me, Espana. . .last game flashed me back to 2008, when you’re European ass was clowned by players, media & fans alike But then a new you emerged - a beast, an animal, a true champion- THAT is the Pau that we need, that is the Gasol that will play Kareem to my Magic. You bust ass and we WILL win this title.
“Fish, you’re on the hook here too. You’ve been with me since I was a kid, and I respected you then the same I respect you now. And we need you; I’m not the leader of this time, you are. I’m depending on you here to tell me when I’m trying to do to much, when I’m letting the Mamba take control of my personality. It’s always been you to provide the calm, and the big shots
We need you now more than ever, D-Fish, so keep doing what you’re doing.
“Drew, I’m certain that the parking lot incident is forever emblazoned in your conscious the same way knee injuries are forever representative of your ability to play. I’m not calling you soft, but real ‘TOUGH’ guys don’t make an issue out of the fact that they’re playing through injuries *ahem: pinky, knee, back, elbow, ME cough* – I’m truly glad you’re out here but seriously, if you’re going to pull this single-single crap then move over and let Josh Powell get some burn, at least he will give me 100% without fear of exacerbating injury. Memo to you, Bynum: this is the FINALS – if you get ‘reinjured,’ you have all off-season and most of next season to recover. Everybody knows this NBA season is just about Playoff seeding. Get your head in the game, and bring your heart – unfortunately we didn’t get Bosh so we can’t do it without you. . .
“and Bench Mob, I’m saving the best for you. Sasha, you’re not the machine but you’ve been hitting a few shots; otherwise, Jordan – you already talking about where you’re playing next year? Let me tell you something, Farmar – you grew up in the Valley, went to school over the hill and now work downtown, and you already want to leave? I’d be surprised, except your post-season play has shown exactly that. Either step it up for for 96 more minutes or good riddance. . .and believe that I’m coming down your throat when we matchup when you’re in Washington. Shannon, you’re not playing much better – in fact, you’ve disappeared recently. You and Farmar have combined for 34 points this series. You think that’s acceptable?!?! Get to the hoop, get some points and help a brother out. We NEED production from you, and you will provide it – you hear me?!?! Bytheway, Luke – have you been suiting up? I haven’t really noticed. . .
“In short, fellas, we have two games to win, and there’s no way we’re losing. I’m not putting the onus on any player, because it’s on ALL of us. We’ve been here before, and I’ll do the heavy lifting – y’all just go out there and get dirty, play tough and execute. With that, the Title is OURS.”
Since coming to the Lakers together in 1996 , backcourt mates Kobe Bryant & Derek Fisher have now won 115 NBA Playoff games together, an NBA Record.
YKI visited the parents last night, who dusted off this copy of Michael Jordan’s 1993 picto-biograpy, featuring a cover photo that was starkly similar to Kobe’s maligned L.A. Times Magazine “All-White” photo shoot.
Take a look at the similarity:
All YKI can say, is that this portends well for Kobe’s continued quest to not only to be like Mike, but the surpass the legend in rings. . .as well as rarefied outfit wearing.
Hey Kobe, YKI can’t hear those people that were calling LeBron the best player in the game just a week ago. . .can you?
Didn’t think so.
End of discussion – Kobe IS the best player in the game.
As YKI stated months ago, the Lakers do not possess the hunger, passion or drive to repeat as Champions this year. It’s not a case of being dramatic, it’s just factual. Second loss to Oklahoma City? Saw it coming. Loss prior to the Finals? Guaranteed.
In this Laker-flag-car-driving town of fake fans, Facebook messages stating I’m going to take a nap, when I wake up I hope the Lakers will have won! & blank stares upon mentions of the name Sedale Threatt and Terry Teagle, it is fitting that the denizens of the city are worked up for naught. The Lakers will lose to the Thunder/Jazz/Nuggets/Spurs/Blazers/Suns/take your pick and nobody will lose sleep, not even the Lakers. And therein lies the problem.
and Phil Jackson is ready to leave. Through it all, though, they really could win if. . .
a certain Black Mamba, Number 24, the Angeles Assassin was firing on all cylinders,
which he clearly is not. For all of his invincible brilliance throughout his career, Kobe’s ability to withstand pain & conquer obstacles has been beyond Jordanesque, playing through injuries, criminal charges, and unparalleled media access/coverage. The past few years have been year-round ballplaying for Mr. Bryant, from the Worlds to the Olympics to repeated NBA Finals.
It seems as this season is the first time that he’s willing to accept less than perfection. As unbreakable as he is in mind & spirit, it’s his body that is telling him to shut it down. Now by no means is Kobe trying – or even wanting – to lose, but it’s apparent that a premature conclusion to the 2009-2010 season would have long-term benefit. Now in his 13th year – meaning his body is 35 years old in Basketball Years – it’s simply been through too much in too short of time to recover properly.
In short, Kobe can not single-handedly will the Lakers through their litany of on-court issues and off-court lack of focus. Prepare for that, Laker fans, and take those darn flags down – they make us all look bad.
Wow, wow, wow. Great concept, great list.
Thank you Jared for the inspiration/idea.
These are my favorite personal sports memories of the Decade:
John Ennis debuts on ESPN (April 10th, 2002)- I lived in Seattle and received a call from John (my best friend in HS) on the day of the game; “I’ was called up and I’ll be pitching vs. the Phillies.” Lo & behold, the game was on ESPN, and Chris Berman kept calling him ‘John Wayne.’ John not only pitched four+ sharp innings and nearly beat out a swinging bunt for a base hit, but made TWO awesome defensive plays, one of which actually made Plays of the Week.
Dodgers Back-to-Back-to-Back-to-Back Plus Nomar (September 18th, 2007) – I was driving home from an Industry Show called Commission Junction University, and Charlie Steiner’s call, in the car (Irene’s car, no less), was one of the most magical moments I’ve ever had as a fan and one of (the only?) times I can say that I’d rather hear anybody call a game/moment over Vin Scully. His emotion was so genuine, his enthusiasm so real that it literally brought me to tears of excitement. I was fortunate enough to get home in time to watch Nomar win the game with yet another homerun in the bottom of the 10th.
Dodgers Game 4 Loss in NLDS vs. Cardinals – (October 10th, 2004) – My wife Irene and I were a fairly new couple at the time and one of her most endearing traits was her true Dodger Fandom. In the post-Fox/early McCourt era, the Dodger successes were far and few between and this Jim Tracy-led bunch that couldn’t score runs was somehow scratching away for wins, successfully. Following their first postseason win since the magical 1988 season behind Jose Lima (LimaTime!), Irene and I attended this game, only to see the true heartbreak of the Dodgers losing. . .yet again. I literally cried at the Stadium after the game.
Alex Cora fouls of 14 straight pitches. . .then hits a homerun (May 12th, 2004)
A regular Dodger game with my Pops (The Count), Alex Cora steps into the box and has possibly the most UNIQUE at-bat I’ve seen as a fan. Here is the pitch-by-pitch recap: Alex Cora, 7th inning: Ball, Strike (looking), Ball, Strike (foul), Foul, Foul, Foul, Foul, Foul, Foul, Foul, Foul, Foul, Foul, Foul, Foul, Foul, A Cora homered to right, J Grabowski scored.
Kobe 81. (January 22nd, 2006) – Irene and I were at LAX en route to our Honeymoon when, at approximately 9:15pm Paul Saario gives me a call and tells me to turn on the Laker game. I told him the situation and just asked him to tell me what’s going on. . .”Kobe has 70 points and there’s still a few minutes left.” LIterally did NOT believe the guy, but rushed to an airport bar to watch the last few buckets of a game that will live in my modern pantheon of Greatest Individual Performances.
UCLA’s unbelievable underdog victory vs. LSU (April 1st, 2006) – The scrappy Bruins, heavy underdog (in typical Ben Howland fashion) pulled off a phenomenal upset of the Big Baby & Tyrus Thomas-led Tigers, leading to a Final showdown vs. Florida. The scene – at a bar, in Berkeley, was so far removed from my normal milieu that I was able to get more into the game than usual – and what a game it was.
De La Hoya vs. Mayweather (May 5th, 2007) – The fight itself was pretty obvious; two shrewd, slick, crafty, intelligent fighters that don’t particularly like to get hit literally ‘boxing’ each other. What made this significant was that it was the first time in nearly a decade that Boxing was King Again. “Just like the old days” of getting everybody together at my Parents’ house was phenomenal and you know what – this was the fight that saved boxing. Bravura, HBO for generating the hype and the 24/7 and congrats to the Sport that really is the best mano y mano showdown possible.
Lakers Comeback vs. Kings (May – June, 2002) – I was living alone in Seattle at this point, but the struggle, the heart, the comeback, the Shaqadociousness of the entire series was and is the Last Great Rivalry in the NBA. I think I called everybody I knew about 10 times each throughout Game 6 and the Overtime Thriller in Game 7.
Going to Packertown with my Dad & Ryan (December 9th, 2007) – What a thrill to visit the tiny village of Green Bay and realize what a true sports town really is. The people of Green Bay, the negative temperatures, the fried food, the football fanatacism – all shared with my Dad and a very close friend was truly the experience of a lifetime. I will never forget anything about the trip (Except maybe the score – the Raiders lost 38-7, but on that day I was indeed a Packers fan).
Reggie Bush vs. Fresno St., 554 total yards (November 19th, 2005) – In a 50-42 thriller (kudos Pat Hill for never backing down), Reggie Bush provided the second most dominant single-game performance of my lifetime, accruing 554 total yards in leading USC to victory. I was at a holiday gathering with Irene’s family – a family with a notable antipathy toward American Football – and by the end of this RB Masterpiece, every male in the household was gathered around the television to watch the Maestro at work.
Who is the Most Clutch Laker of All-Time?
(click on each photo for a youtube compendium of each player's greatest clutch moments)
a) Earvin “Magic” Johnson
Magic won five rings, beginning with his clutch step-in for Kareem as a Rookie in 1980. Always phenomenal but at his best at the end of games – you needed the ball in Magic’s hands.
Best clutch moment: The Baby Hook vs. Boston in 1987.
b) Jerry West – “The Logo”
Jerry West played prior to the 3-point line, and was considered the best pure shooter of his (and possibly any) era. So ice cold that he literally can NOT watch games or even highlights of games in which his team lost.
Best Clutch Moment: Full-court buzzer beater vs. Knicks in 1969 NBA Finals, sending the series to 7 games.
c) Kobe Bryant – “Black Mamba”
Literally ice cold. An Assasin. A killer. Wants the ball when the game is on the line. Will make the big shot.
Best clutch moment: Take your pick: 81, Kobe vs. Sacramento, Kobe vs. Portland. . .
Leave your comments and I’ll tally up the votes.