Lakers and Celtics: Same As It Ever Was
The LeBron-Kobe showdown failed to materialize, as we all know, and order has been restored to the basketball universe. The last two NBA champions are from the most storied franchises in NBA history. Isn't it ironic that Kobe's first Finals MVP trophy is named after the greatest player and Celtic ever?
The basketball gods do have a sense of humor.
LeBron will get his championship, but for now, history is on a collision course to repeat itself. Two Finals MVPs have resurrected their team's destinies. Lakers versus Celtics, Kobe vs. Pierce, Pau vs. KG, and Doc vs. the Zen Master. Star power, star quality all the time, Stern has already put his favorite son LeBron on the back burner. You do not bite the hand that feeds you, LeBron.
Kobe Bryant has finally shown that he could win without Shaq. He got his wish: He had a decent big man who didn't take away his photo ops. He now feels validated. He is gunning for Magic's and Michael's record, and in his eyes, he will be the greatest shooting guard ever if he should accomplish this feat.
According to the media (LeBron's incredible stats supports that), James should be the one battling Kobe for championships. He is apparently Kobe's peer, the other driven superstar that is searching out greatness.
Well, someone forgot to tell Paul Pierce that, because he feels that injuries robbed his team of the chance to repeat.
Pierce and Bryant were drafted two years apart. Bryant was drafted 13th overall in 1996 and Pierce 10th overall in 1998. Both had a love for the purple and gold growing up. One got traded to the team of his dreams, the other to his sworn childhood nemesis, the Boston Celtics.
Bryant had the good fortune of being coached by one of the greatest coaches in NBA history, Phil Jackson. Pierce had to endure a carousel of former Celtic players and mediocre coaches for his first ten years. Bryant had Shaq, and, well, Pierce had Mark Blount. Get the picture?
Kobe got his fourth ring, but in his mind, he probably thinks it his first. Paul got his first in 2008, and like Bryant felt vindicated. He felt vindicated because he had felt the weight of past Celtic championships on him. Pierce cried when he got trophy with his teammates and coaches surrounding him. Bryant had to find someone to hug while his teammates celebrated.
Both franchises have tasted victory, and neither team would help the other change a flat-tire in a blinding snowstorm. Yes, the rivalry is that intense. Next year's Laker-Celtic games will be televised. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the revolution will be televised.
The bizarro world that saw The Big Fundamental, Tim Duncan, win a championship in every odd year since 1999, is gone. The last two championships have come from true championship pedigree. George Mikan and Red Auerbach are probably debating how many more championships Kobe and Paul can win between them.
Mitch Kupchak's heist of Pau Gasol rivals that of the Island of Manhattan sale for a string of beads. The NBA is still looking for the secret underhanded deal in Area 51 that is sure to surface down the road. It took two years for the deal to pay off in a Laker championship.
Danny Ainge's blockbuster sale of the fifth pick and Al Jefferson and some spare parts yielded two all-stars for the Celtics. The addition of Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett paid immediate dividends with banner No. 17.
Mitch and Danny now face similar challenges: How to keep their championship core together without mortgaging the future.
The Lakers have decisions to make on Trevor Ariza and Lamar Odom. The Lakers may be forced to make a sign-and-trade with one of them. Los Angeles has a young big man in Andrew Bynum they can build around and have a bright future.
The Celtics need youth, atheleticism and speed in the frontcourt. This offseason marks a critical juncture for the team, because this will prove that they are truly back on the road to glory.
Kobe and Paul have seen the front office of their respective teams provide them with what they needed to win a championship. Instead of looking for a would-be King without a throne, let us look at "The Truth" and "The Mamba," two players, one sure-fire Hall-of Fame, another needing at least one more championship to make his way there.
The next three years will provide perhaps a historic glimpse into more than one Finals championship act for these two franchises, these two greats. Both forever linked by destiny; both forever linked by team dynasty.
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