Flashback 10 years to the summer of 2002—champagne, smiles, sunshine and one shiny trophy.
The 10 years that followed the Lakers’ 2002 Finals win over the New Jersey Nets were tumultuous, to say the least.
The Kobe-Shaq feud reached its boiling point; O’Neal was traded to Miami. The Lakers missed the playoffs. Bryant asked for a trade. The Lakers acquired Pau Gasol. Two more NBA championships were won. The Lakers were swept by the Dallas Mavericks and underwent widespread criticism regarding the team’s old age and lack of motivation.
Although the past 10 years have each been memorable in their own right, this season could be the most memorable of them all with the acquisition of Steve Nash.
On their quest to win a championship, Nash, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum have the opportunity to fill the voids in their résumés and cement themselves as the best.
As a Phoenix Sun, Nash became a perennial All-Star and two-time league MVP.
Although Nash is regarded as the best point guard the league has had in the past decade, there is still a big hole in his impressive résumé: he hasn’t won a title.
Nash is still capable of playing at a high level and a championship will eradicate a significant burden and will shoot him up the list of greatest point guards of all time.
Although Pau Gasol has helped the Lakers win two NBA titles, his dismal performance in the playoffs the past two seasons have almost eclipsed what he has accomplished.
He has been constantly criticized for being soft, for shrinking in big moments.
This disparagement can lessen if Gasol continues to play at a high level, averaging close to a double-double.
It can permanently come to an end if Gasol helps the Lakers win a title this season—with three championships, Gasol will be remembered as one of the best power forwards of all time, arguably top-five.
Coming off of an All-Star season where he averaged a double-double, Bynum has proven to be a top-five center in the NBA.
However, his maturity issues and lack of drive have overshadowed his individual performance.
This season, as a part of great team, Bynum will have the chance to prove to the basketball world that he is capable of being a dominant force on a great team and overcome his personality flaws. He can easily leapfrog Dwight Howard as the best center in the NBA and fall into line with the great centers that have had the honor to wear a Lakers uniform.
Many already regard Kobe Bryant as one of the top 10 players of all time with his five championships.
With a sixth, nonetheless, Bryant will move higher on the list, closer to Michael Jordan, which he strongly desires.
In addition, he can, without much argument, consider himself the greatest Laker of all time, topping Magic Johnson.
It’s clear that each of these players has a personal journey towards everlasting greatness, and that’s what will make this season an unforgettable one.
However, each personal journey can only be fulfilled if a collective goal is accomplished: winning an NBA championship.