The Legacy of Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant: Which One Ends With a Ring?
As the NBA Finals approach us tomorrow night on ABC, all the talk we've been hearing is about the legacies of Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant.
Everyone knows the story with both of these All-Stars. Garnett and his years in Minnesota, pulling Tracy McGradys (first-round exits) until 2004, when he finally led the T-Wolves to the Western Conference Finals, only to lose to Bryant's Lakers.
After that year, Garnett endured three straight years of not going to the postseason, prompting Kevin McHale to trade him (out of respect for Garnett, I believe) to his good friend Danny Ainge in Boston.
Kobe Bryant's road to the Finals was a bit different. He won three straight with Shaquille O'Neal, but was criticized for running Shaq out of town, and then suffered through playoff exits with a less than sub-par team.
Now, after a season in which Bryant went from requesting a trade to being MVP of the league and becoming the selfless leader of the Los Angeles Lakers, he stands four victories away from silencing everyone and winning a championship without the Big Diesel.
The trendy pick for the championship are the men in purple in gold from sunny Southern California, and with good reason (and yes, I think they will win). The Lakers are a younger, faster team, and have the best player in the world on their team.
Will the Lakers win? No doubt in my mind. Should they win? Hmm...
What Should Happen:
Part of me wants to say that the Boston Celtics should win. No, not only just because of Kevin Garnett. Yes, KG plays a big part in the reason as to why I think the Celtics should win this series.
One of the nicest guys around, KG never put his teammates down in Minnesota. He brought 110 percent every single time he stepped out onto the court, regardless of their position in the standings. This year, he took his game to a new level, winning the Defensive Player of the Year.
But let's not forget one thing. This could be the best chance KG has to win. Look at the up-and-coming Eastern Conference. The Sixers are improving, as are the Cavs and Magic. Garnett's time could be now.
But let's not forget the other two members of the Big Three in Boston. Ray Allen deserves a championship as much as anyone. One of the best pure shooters in the game, Allen has been a model citizen on and off the court, for the most part.
He's gone from the leading option in Milwaukee and Seattle to the number three guy in Boston just to win a championship. He's sacrificed his numbers to be on a winning team.
Speaking of sacrifice, how about Paul Pierce? Isn't he as deserving as anyone? Pierce openly accepted two players who would take away from his numbers just to win a championship. Pierce has stuck with this franchise through the thick and thin since he was drafted out of Kansas.
He could easily be the most important player on the court during the Finals. As Pierce goes, so do the Celtics. And he'll have to have a good series, as Garnett will be swarmed by Gasol and Odom, and Allen will be defended by Bryant. Pierce will have all day to drive against Vladimir Radmonovic or whoever thinks they can guard him.
To me, these three guys deserve to win a championship more than anyone in the league right now, except for maybe one player...
What Will Happen:
Now, as stated before, we know the Lakers are the better team and will win this series (in six).
Why? Sure, the C's deserve the win. The Big Three deserve the win. But let's be real here. Will Kobe allow that to happen? Not a fat chance. He deserves this more than any single player in the league.
Kobe Bryant has morphed from an egotistical, selfish, ball-hogging, one-man team to an assist-dealing, communicating, leading, MVP ballplayer. With this, he's made everyone around him better.
Bryant, to me, has more determination than the Celtics do. He's been under so much scrutiny for not winning without Shaq. This is the year that he can (and will) prove that he can. His supporting cast is much, much better than that in years prior.
Pau Gasol was the steal of the season, Derek Fisher has provided an emotional spark, and Lamar Odom has accepted his role as the number three man. Does Kobe deserve this? Absolutely, more than anyone in the league.
As with the Celtics, this could be the best chance the Lakers have. Granted, they have a younger team and can contend for a few more years. But in the Western Conference, you take what you can get. Any team can pop up and surprise you and win the championship.
That factor, along with Kobe's determination, will lead this team to victory.
Also, look at the bench play of both of these teams. The Lakers clearly have the better bench, with Farmar, Vujacic, Walton, etc. The C's bench is, well, old. Cassell and Brown are well into their 30s. Tony Allen won't be available for much of the series, if at all.
Phil Jackson trusts his bench so much that he allowed them to play while down 17 against the Spurs. The Lakers have the confidence that they can rest their starters and their bench can still keep them in the game.
It just so happens that in the NBA Finals, the best player on the best team wins. Kobe Bryant, the MVP of the league, the best player in the whole world, plays on the best team, the Los Angeles Lakers.
Both of these teams, both of their star players, deserve to win. Sure, I'd like to see KG, Allen, and Pierce get their rings this year. But ultimately, Kobe Bryant's determination and fire will ignite the Lakers and lead them to the NBA Championship.
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