I will say first and foremost, I am a die hard Boston Celtics fan. With that out of the way, I will admit that outside of the Celtics, Kobe Bryant is my favorite player in the league. I know, I know… this is ludicrous coming from a lifetime Bostonian to be able to consider a Laker as my favorite player. What I will ask is that you forgive me as I did not grow up during the 80′s Lakers/Celtics rivalry, so my hatred won’t stem as far back as many of you. On top of that, with the Celtics being a disgrace of a franchise for some time, I needed to latch on to a superstar that would bring me excitement during the playoffs and ultimately the championship series. Enter Kobe Bryant.
Throughout the regular season and up until the championship series in the playoffs, Kobe Bryant was my MVP. I knew the defensive scheme the Celtics used to stop Joe Johnson and Lebron James, but neither of them are KB24. Kobe has a far better jumper than both of them and is just as lethal as Lebron as getting to the rim. Add on top of that he is the greatest closer the league has seen since His Airness. In fact, he’s the closest thing we have seen to Him since He retired, but after watching this series, those comparisons MUST come to an end.
Michael Jordan is the greatest player to ever play the great game of basketball, no questions asked. Whether it is ESPN, the NBA or just fans with a void in their hearts for the next MJ, we try to build up players to be Him, yet we refuse to believe that there will never be another Jordan. Kobe was supposed to be the MJ of today’s game, but after watching him allow his team to lose in six games (which the Lakers were lucky to grace the court with this team for that many games) as well as give up a 24 point lead in Game 4 and almost another 19 point lead in Game 5, how could we discuss these two players in the same breath?
I understand Kobe Bryant has caught flack in the past for being a chucker, especially when he averaged 35 points a game for an entire season. I understand when you’re the best player on the court, it’s easy to tell yourself you’re going to score every time down the court (I’ve done this a few times, but against MUCH lesser competition). So Kobe tried to switch up his game to get his teammates involved. Great, how can anyone hate him for doing that? Problem is with Kobe is that he doesn’t know how to be an aggressive offensive player scoring-wise while simultaneously getting the rock to open Lakers.
To see an example of this, all you have to do is watch the first half of last night’s game. Kobe was on fire to start the game even with picture perfect defense from Ray Allen. Connecting on four of his first five shots, three of which were from beyond the arc, it looked like Mamba was going to will the Lakers to a game 7 in the Garden by himself. Then he decided it was time to get his teammates involved. And once that happened, the game got away. He stopped being aggressive with his shot, refused to take it to the rack and when he did, he was looking to pass into double teams and help defenders rather than attacking the rim. The greatest offensive player in today’s game refusing to shoot the ball. That is unacceptable.
In a series where Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol decided to play, as the great Stephen A. Smith would say, “soft as putty”, there was not a time in the playoffs where the Lakers absolutely needed the league’s MVP to shoulder the offensive load more than they did in the Finals. On the road when Sasah Vujacic, Luke Walton and Jordan Farmar couldn’t connect on many of their jumpers, Kobe needed to get hot. But instead of being the Black Mamba, the most deadliest animal on the face of the Earth, he turned into a garden snake in the face of the league’s top defense. After watching him split double-teams on a regular basis all season, Kobe looked like a deer in headlights when he saw those green jerseys of Ray, Paul and Posey in front of him, with of course KG and Perk lurking in the paint.
When the Lakers needed Kobe to be the best player on the planet, he decided to do it for a fraction of the game then become the “team player” everyone wanted him to be. Fact of the matter is, he doesn’t know how to be the team player we all want and still be able to put up his 30 points. Michael could do it in the triangle offense without disrupting the flow of the system and still get his, but Kobe seems to either give in to the system too much or not at all. Kobe’s disappearing act for most of this series destroyed his chance to really build on to his legacy as one of the game’s greatest players of all time, but instead he may have just taken a step back.
All photos courtesy of Yahoo! Sports.