Kobe Deserves Props But Dont Forget The Face Behind The Curtain

John NeumanCorrespondent IJune 20, 2010

30 Apr 2000: Coach Phil Jackson of the Los Angeles Lakers points to his team from the bench during the game against the Sacramento Kings for the NBA Western Conference Playoffs Round One Game at the Arco Arena in Sacramento, California. The Kings defeated the Lakers 99-91.   Mandatory Credit: Jed Jacobsohn  /Allsport
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Kobe Bryant is a winner. There’s no doubt about it.  When you look back at this years Lakers' team, it wasn’t about sweeping or making teams look bad, it was simply that this team was not going to lose 4 out of 7.


Think back to the Lakers before they got Gasol.  They were knocked out 2 years in a row in the first round, and the previous year when Phil left for a vacation, Rudy Tomjanovich and Frank Hamblen failed to make the playoffs in 2005.  Phil built this team from the ground up and Gasol was the icing on the cake.


The icing got 18 rebounds and 19 points when the game mattered most.  But for the Lakers it was the team who made the difference.


For this group of characters, it wasn’t whether or not someone wasn’t going to show up, it was a matter of who the surprise guest was going to be.


On a given night, we saw Odom step up and lead the bench.  Farmar and Fisher came through with big 20 point games.  Then we saw moments of dismay when it looked like Kobe was the only guy suited up.


But we knew one thing, that this team always held a lazy thorn on their shoulder.  But when it came down to the prime moment, someone always showed up.  Artest had some of the worst games of the playoffs, and he had some of the best.


Lamar Odom checked out for games and sometimes went unnoticed.  Then he came out of nowhere to boost the team when people forgot he was there.  Shannon Brown came to play when people forgot he was on the team.  Andrew Bynum came steady but quiet in the playoffs giving the Lakers double figures.


People are going to make all the comparisons about Kobe vs. Jordan and Kobe vs. Shaq because that’s what people do in a 5-on-5 game.  But don’t forget, Jordan needed Pippen and they both needed Kerr, Rodman, and Kukoc.  And they all needed Phil.


Shaq shot a much higher percentage than any major player in recent history to lead his teams to multiple championships.  Kobe shot a worse percentage but willed his team through his passion to win.


Shaq has three final’s MVPs, Kobe has two.  Kobe had the luxury of coming into the league at an early age where Shaq was the best player in the league to play his role and collect three quick rings.  Glen Rice was a major factor in 2000 and Horace Grant was a major factor in 2001.  The 2001 team went 15-1, an NBA best and Shaq was MVP.


The Shaq dynasty never played against the Bad Boy Pistons or Knicks like Jordan and Pippen.  But they dominated the basketball landscape in a way for three years that ranks as good as many (2000-2002).


At the end of the day, everyone is going to have the debate.  But it comes down to dominance versus team.  Shaq was the most dominate, Kobe had the best team, and both along with Jordan and Pippen had Phil.


Through all the confusion, there is one certain face who stands above water.  Phil Jackson has 11 titles – three-peated with the Bulls team Doug Collins couldn’t win with twice, three-peated with the Lakers who couldn’t win with Del Harris & Kurt Rambis (and Shaq had not won a title before Phil showed up), and perhaps his best work, he rebuilds the Lakers who missed the playoffs in 2005 into a potential dynasty led by Kobe Bryant.


Take Shaq and Kobe's 3 together, Kobe's 2 latest, and Michael and Scottie's 6, and then add them all up and you get 11 -- Phil Jackson's 11.