Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers Still Super Team to Beat
Now that the nauseam that was "The LeBron Narcissistic Special" is over, we can get down to previewing the supposed "Super Team," which from now on will be known as "South Beach W.J.B."
The acronym reminds you of a cheesy private investigation television series with terrible acting, a predictable plot, and an ending that only surprises 65-year-old retirees with too much time on their hands.
It's been speculated for the better part of four years that Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and their sidekick Chris Bosh have been planning to make a mockery of team sports by joining forces to win multiple championships.
And yes, I said mockery.
Here's my reason. In response to Jim Grey's question, "...how will you fit in and possibly not be the headliner all the time?" James said, "It's not about sharing. It's about everyone having their own spotlight." That statement is a slap in the face to team sports.
Basketball is a sport predicated on togetherness. Championship teams are comprised of interchangeable parts that synchronize with one common purpose or goal.
It takes sacrifice, commitment, great coaching, and a little luck to win a championship.
This latest coming together of a super team more closely resembles the 2004 version of the Los Angeles Lakers—that team featured Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone, and Gary Payton—than it does of Boston's 2008 "Big Three" squad of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen.
That 2004 Lakers squad had too many spotlights to fill and not enough bulbs to fit.
Kobe was out to prove once and for all he was not Robin.
Shaq was equally determined to keep his Batman status while allowing his waistline to rival his massive ego.
Malone was too busy hitting on Kobe's wife and perfecting that awful behind the head dunk pose.
Payton tried desperately to mask his disrespect for the triangle offense, but his selfish play betrayed an offense that had produced nine NBA championships to his zero at that point.
In stark contrast, during the 2008 season Boston's "Big Three" brewed a perfect mix of hunger, determination, and will to carry the Celtics to their unprecedented 17th NBA title.
No egos. No agendas. One spotlight.
To date, there is one NBA title between Wade, James, and Bosh.
Wade is tested, however has never played second fiddle in his career, even after Shaq and his ego landed in Miami.
James has failed to take two 60-plus win teams beyond the Conference Finals (and was swept out of the NBA Finals in 2007) and carries an ego large enough to fill South Beach's ocean.
Bosh is desperate to be "the man" (his words), but has yet to sniff the playoffs, let alone play meaningful minutes in a championship series.
Considering all of that, it doesn't feel like the start of a happy ending with those three.
Which brings me to the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. As currently constructed, the Lakers can equal any team Miami assembles around its trio.
On the bench Phil Jackson will clearly out-coach Erik Spoelstra on any court, in any solar system. If Pat Riley boots Spoelstra from the bench as many suspect, I'll take Jackson's 11 rings and three three-peats to Riley's five rings as a head coach.
In a matchup of talent and will between Kobe and Wade, Kobe dominates.
Ron Artest is a proven champion that will wrestle and bang with James.
Pau Gasol can hold his own on any court against Bosh. If you doubt it, check the 2008 Olympic title game.
Throw in Lamar Odom, a healthy Andrew Bynum, and championship resolve it's hard to see "South Beach WJB" defeating the Lakers in a series.
Especially with the new collective bargaining contract looming and potential role players wanting to max their worth under the current agreement.
In 1968, Wilt Chamberlain left Philadelphia to play alongside Jerry West and Elgin Baylor. Gail Goodrich was there too.
They won one championship in five years.
We're talking four Hall Of Fame players who lost twice in the Finals to a less talented Knicks team that played a perfect blend of team ball.
The 2004 Lakers got run out of Detroit in a humiliating five game NBA Finals series. Boston's "Big Three" has climbed the mountain once in three seasons.
So the reality is, it's not guaranteed the super team trio of Wade, James, and Bosh will win one or even multiple championships.
No matter what the final roster looks like in South Beach, I think it's safe to say Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant will have a lot to say about the outcome of current and future dynasties.
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