Kobe/Artest, Jordan/Rodman: Parallels of Heroes and Villains
Watching the 2010 NBA Finals, deja vu is only the beginning. Parallels between the current Phil Jackson successes and a past dynasty are overwhelming.
The NBA of the 1990s was marked by a catalyst known as the Chicago Bulls, a team led by a walking legend, in the form of Michael Jordan. However, a supporting cast of conspirators, confidants, and a villain seem to have reprized their roles in the next decade, reincarnated in purple and gold.
On the surface, it appears as a basic strategy. However, this formula for success is much deeper than meets the eye. Phil Jackson is widely regarded as one of the best coaches of all time, and rightfully so. But what if he owes his success not to his play-calling abilities, but to the knowledge of a formula brewed years ago?
Maybe this philosophy thing is for real...
The multi-colored hair behind the legend
It has long been believed that a good coach has to be able to motivate his players, be a good play-caller in tight situations, and handle all the unique personalities of a possible 15-player roster.
However, there is another element to success, as Phil Jackson has shown in his career.
Finding the right talent may not be a matter of signing the top scorers in the league, or even the ones with the most playoff experience. Looking at the Chicago Bulls of the 90s, it is clear that each player had his role and executed it well.
Jordan was the leader of the team, the hero, the one that got all the glory. However, without established roles of teammates for support, they dynasty may never have been.
Steve Kerr played his role well, distributing the ball to his teammates while playing defense and occasionally scoring. He even had the ability to score in clutch situations when the team needed it most.
Tony Kukoc was the utility man; the guy who could provide extra rebounds and assists, but had the ability to shoot and run the floor while playing the post position.
Scottie Pippen was the sidekick, the man who could knock down the outside shot and provide open hands when Jordan got in trouble and was looking for a teammate to pass to.
And then there was Rodman, the bad boy with an attitude. A physical man playing the game within the game, the head games. Rodman didn't score many points, but had the ability to keep opponents from scoring by getting under their skin and throwing them off rhythm.
Rodman was known for his antics on and off the court. The eccentric and flamboyant Rodman used his style of play to intimidate all who got in the Bulls' way. He used his words while getting in the face (and pants) of other players. No one wanted to be around him when a shot was in the air because they were afraid of getting an elbow to the jaw (or being spit on).
With each player contributing their talents in the form of roles, it's easy to see the formula for success is cliche: getting each piece of the puzzle to fit. Six NBA titles in eight seasons.
However, don't forget about Rodman. Without the prolific trash talker and 20 rebounds a game, NBA history may have been written with a different tune.
With that said, brace yourself, because the next slide will give you chills (or at least you'll be saying, "Huh, I never noticed that before.").
Reincarnation: Hair and All
The Lakers of the 2000's and possibly 2010's have a long way to go to match the Bulls of the 90's. Phil Jackson has hinted that his time is short in the NBA as a coach, and the team still has several more championships to win to match the prowess of the Bulls.
That said, the key elements still remain for the Lakers in the formula proved so successful by Jordan and Rodman.
Without saying Kobe Bryant's game is the same as Jordan's, because quite frankly, it's not even close, Bryant is the leader of this team just as Jordan was for the Bulls.
Kobe is a scorer, a player who possesses legendary abilities above and beyond the talent level of those around him. After Bryant's career is over, he will be looked upon as Jordan-like for those reasons, despite differences in personality and style of play.
Like Steve Kerr of the Bulls, the Lakers have Derek Fisher, a veteran guard with the ability to distribute the ball to teammates and occasionally contribute in the points column. Fisher's ability to run the floor and participate in a fast-paced offense parallels Kerr for the Bulls.
Lamar Odom may not fit perfectly in to the mold of Scottie Pippen. His scoring numbers are lower but his rebound numbers are higher. Odom doesn't match Pippen on some levels, but he actually does on several.
Odom provides support to Kobe Bryant with the ability to take the ball and score when Kobe gets in trouble. Lamar's ability to get to the basket for a potential rebound provides an extra hands to give the Lakers a second chance on the scoring side of the floor. Pippen was able to do this very well for the Bulls.
Where scoring is lacking for Odom versus Pippen, the slack is made up by Pau Gasol. With Tony Kukoc as a base, Gasol adds assists, and recently, physical toughness to the formula.
Finally, the similarities of Artest and Rodman are undeniable. Not because of rebound numbers (Rodman wins head-to-head easily), and not because of scoring numbers (Artest outscores Rodman head-to-head if he makes more than one basket a game), but because of attitude and style of play.
Like Rodman, Artest makes players around him hate him. He can change the momentum of a game by taking an opposing player out of the game. Artest's main focus used to be Kobe Bryant, but since joining the Purple and Gold, he seems to have acquired a new target: Paul Pierce.
Artest has found the star for the Celtics whose head he is able to climb inside of and change his play. Pierce has been, for the most part, a non-contributor thus far in the 2010 Finals, and everywhere he tries to run, Artest is there, tangled up with him and taking him to the floor.
The main difference between Rodman and Artest is where they focus their negative energy. As Rodman seemed to have a foe against every team, Artest seems to focus on one player, and not let up until that player is at their breaking point.
Once the era of Lakers success enters remission, a frenzy of analytical analysis will ensue. Mark my words: The comparison in this article will be done over hundreds of times more. Phil Jackson will owe a large portion of his success to this formula, and it will be copied by other teams for years to come.