Thursday, June 4, 2009

These are the Kobe Bryant NBA Finals

With all due respect to the other players in this series, the NBA Finals are all about Kobe Bryant. His legacy. His place in history. His chance to shut up his detractors. His chance to fully place his name among the greatest winners in sports.

Sure, there are tons and tons of storylines in this series. And there are plenty of great players who will make bigger names for themselves in the next two weeks. But this will long be remembered for what Kobe Bryant did more than anything else.

That's amazing since Kobe has already claimed three championships. This will be the sixth Finals he has appeared in during his 13 seasons in the league. He has led the league in scoring a couple of times and has an MVP award. And when the chips were down during the Redeem Team's gold medal game against Spain, it was Kobe who took over.

He could retire right now and nearly every player currently in the NBA would love to have switched places with him.

But there is that perception thing. People say that Shaquille O'Neal handed those three rings to Kobe (even though Kobe was very, very instrumental during those Finals and in the series leading up to them). People say that he hasn't carried a team to a title himself. He's only been "da man" of the Lakers for five seasons and the team began with guys who weren't top level players.

We can all argue that until the cows come home but the steam lets out on the other side if Kobe can bring this one home. He has the home court advantage, the more experienced team and teammates with the bad taste of last year's Finals in their mouth. This is a golden opportunity.

So much so that if the Lakers fail to win the title, Kobe will get a ton of slack for it. This Orlando Magic team is better than people seem to realize, but if they win the championship people will feel that it was because Kobe is a poor leader. He had the better hand and still lost.

That's why this Finals appearance is so important. A win places him among the Laker greats like Kareem and Magic who won five titles wearing the purple and gold. A loss turns him, apparently, into chopped liver.

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