Kobe Bryant's Redemption Song
The Los Angeles Lakers will defeat the Orlando Magic to win the 2009 NBA title...period.
Over the course of the next several days there will be a smorgasbord of articles written by experts and pundits who will explain how difficult it will be for the Lakers to defeat a team that poises so many matchup problems for L.A. and yada, yada, yada...yada, yada, yada...etc.
The Magic are not ready for prime-time and the Lakers are led by two prime-time experts in coach Phil Jackson and his accompanying hoops assassin, Kobe Bryant.
Orlando on the other hand is bringing a group led by a superstar center, Howard and a cast of supporting players (with the exception of bench player Tyron Lue) who have never breathed the type of air an event like the NBA Finals exudes.
The Magic are about to experience life within the realm of the age old axiom be careful what you wish for.
Kobe Bryant, on the other hand, has lived out this scenario several times over during his career in Tinseltown, and he is at the point now where he reminds me of Rorschach in the movie the Watchmen when he declares in the prison scene "None of you understand. I'm not locked up in here with you. you're locked up in here with me!"
We've seen this before. There was a time in NBA history when every season the entire league realized that there was certain No. 23 that wanted nothing more than to humiliate every other player in the league (teammates notwithstanding) and hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy over his head as he mocked the futile efforts of yeoman who dared challenged his supremacy.
We are back here again.
The Boston Celtics needed to assemble three Hall-of-Fame players and face the Lakers minus two starters to defeat Bryant and Jackson in six games in last year's Finals.
The Orlando Magic have one potential HOF player and the Lakers have their full roster available to them. This won't be nearly as difficult as people will try to make it out to be.
Bryant could not have cared less who was waiting for his team in the NBA Finals. It's probably not a stretch to say that with a healthy Ariza, Bynum and the surprising play of newcomer Shannon Brown, he relished the idea of getting revenge against Garnett and crew.
Alas, he will have to settle for the dismantling of a bunch of upstarts from the sunshine state.
Kobe asked for this years ago. He asked to be the man on his own team and he got his wish. He may not have asked Mitch Kupchak or Jerry Buss, he more than likely prayed to the basketball gods at night...please make me...'the man'.
Bryant got what he wished for. In being 'The Man' he watched Shaquille O Neal go to Miami and piggy back another ring off the work of Dwayne Wade and (yikes) Alonzo Mourning. He had to endure things like the Rudy Tomjanovich era, the Frank Hamblen experiment, the Smush Parker period, the Kwame Brown epoch...you get the picture.
Then, last season, just when it seemed as if Bryant was ready to erase all of the demons that have haunted him since the departure of Shaq, the Celtice assembled an All-Star team to ruin his shot at his first post-Shaq title.
After all of that, he then had endure Shaq's infamous 'rap-freestyle' where O'Neal put the question to Kobe...how does my a** taste...utterly macabre.
Bryant's response was nothing less than a return trip to the NBA Finals, back to back appearances sans Shaq, who's star-studded Phoenix Suns team couldn't manage to make an appearance in the postseason.
After Boston beat L.A. last year, I'm sure there were many people who thought that maybe they had seen the final chapter of the Kobe Bryant story.
LeBron James had already been designated as the new "King" of the league and this year's title was supposed to the culmination of a season of excellence where the Cavs organization was bestowed with the league's best regular season record, the league's MVP and the NBA's coach of the year.
What LeBron found out this year was what Jordan found out for seven years and what Kobe found out for the past five. Being 'The Man' is expensive, mentally, emotionally and physically.
It drains you to the point where eventually you develop a single-minded focus and determination that will annihilate any and everything around you that would seek to deny you what it is that you desire. Such is the price of true greatness.
Bryant knows that now, more than ever, so does Jackson and so does does everyone else in the Lakers locker room who watched as Kobe and Phil stood silently by as James Worthy presented the Western Conference Championship trophy after the Lakers annihilated the Nuggets on their own floor in an elimination game.
There were no smiles from Kobe after winning the Western Conference for second year in a row. He asked for this scenario, he wanted and he's getting what he's asked for. Only now it's own his own terms.
Lakers in five.
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