Los Angeles Lakers: Team of the Decade
With a great start a tumultuous middle and an exclamatory finish the Lakers stamp on the past decade is undeniable. Six trips to the NBA Finals and four Championships make it academic, the Lakers are the team of the Decade.
The New England Patriots and San Antonio Spurs with three titles a piece proved to be great and other teams were noteworthy (Steelers, Red Sox, Red Wings, Devils, Yankees and Pistons) but the Lakers stole the show in every way.
Don’t believe me, well let me count the ways.
First off there’s “Star Power.” Superficial yes, but it’s Hollywood plus check the ratings the Lakers move the meter. There was no BIGGER star in sports in the past decade than Big Shaq; he’s an American sports icon, and probably has the most personality among active players.
This movie had two leading men, Kobe is the most talked about athlete of the decade, everything he does is scrutinized, discussed and debated, his game makes for Sports Center highlights, his name moves the blogs like no other and his jersey is the most popular.
You want more star power, the 2004 team had four Hall of Famers in the starting five with Shaq, Kobe, Karl Malone and Gary Payton. If that’s not enough star power just check out the who’s who list of their season ticket holders.
Then there’s Laker drama, the good the bad and the ugly.
The good drama, Robert Horry’s buzzer beaters, Derek Fisher’s miracle shots, Shaq’s stirring the pot with rival teams (example: calling the Sacramento Kings the Queens or Eric Dampier, Erika), Phil’s mind games, Kobe’s many eye popping performances, (the 81 point game, or outscoring the Mavericks for three quarters), or Mitch Kupchak trading Kwame Brown for Pau Gasol.
There was also the bad drama that kept the Lakers the top story of the decade, Shaq and Kobe’s soap opera public feud, Shaq calling out owner Jerry Buss, Kobe’s trade demands.
The drama got ugly with the serious Colorado debacle and the cloud that hung over Kobe and the Lakers for more than a season, also ugly was Phil Jackson’s book where he broke the unwritten code of locker room secrecy. Through it all, good, bad and ugly the Lakers remained a top story.
More important than the drama and the star power is the ultimate goal of professional sports and that’s winning. The Lakers did this better than any other team in the decade and they did it with three different teams.
The Shaq, Kobe team, by winning three in a row joined an exclusive group of teams to accomplish that feat, only the 1950s Lakers, 1960s Celtics, and the 1990s Bulls have won three or more championships in a row.
In the middle of the decade the Lakers re-loaded with GP and the Mailman and made it to the Finals but came up short. After trading Shaq the team was rebuilt around Kobe and at the close of the decade went to consecutive NBA Finals, winning one.
The winning-est coach, the two most iconic players of the era, six appearances, enough drama for a soap opera, record setting performances and the most championships of any team in professional sports makes it official.
The Los Angeles Lakers, “Team of the Decade”
If not them then who?