Jerry West: Manna from Heaven

Akshay MadhavanContributor IMay 21, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 19:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers points as he stands with J.R. Smith #1 of the Denver Nuggets in the second half of Game One of the Western Conference Finals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 19, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

As every human with a larynx holds forth on LeBron vs Kobe, as John Hollinger tries to settle the debate using his statistics, and ESPN has a roundtable of bloggers for their take on the matter, and all the Kobe hating, mainstream media put forth their ridiculously biased views.

This view is supported by delusional Cavs fans and matched on the opposite side by delusional Lakers fans; however, one voice rose above it all and for many people, settled the debate for the time being.

Everyone not living under a rock now knows what Jerry West's words (definitely infamous) were. He's not the first authority to opine on the matter, but simply the most high profile, and the one with the closest attachment to one of the subjects of the debate. What do these words signify though?

Why are they so important to Lakers fans who will never in a thousand years believe that LeBron James is better than Kobe Bryant? How could Jerry West even say such a thing? Our Jerry West?

The man who gave us our beloved Kobe turning on us like this? Caesar's "et tu??" to Brutus captures it very well for us (as Johnny Ludden of Yahoo! Sports has said).

If, as a "second father" you can take sides in this all-important, enraging debate against your adopted son when he is in the midst of the most important playoff run of his career and say that his fiercest rival has "surpassed him as a player," you are everything we thought you were not.

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This would mean you were disloyal, irresponsible, cheap and lowly.The Logo is one of the greatest, most revered and respected figures in all of basketball, and hence, this cannot be the case.

It cannot be that he hasn't said this with every intent and purpose of needling Kobe to raising his game to the heights it needs to be at to get the Lakers the championship. It cannot be that West simply happened to choose the eve of Game One of the WCF to make this monumental observation.

It cannot be that this simply happened to follow a lacklustre series against the Rockets for both the Lakers as well as for Kobe himself (even though he was great, he wasn't setting the world on fire) where everyone began to doubt their championship mettle and question their commitment and focus.

It simply cannot be that a wise sage of basketball chose so ill timed a moment to utter this opinion of his, deserting his adopted son in his most acute time of need.

Which father tells their son he's got a receding hairline right when the son is about to propose to his beloved? It simply doesn't happen. The minute I heard what West had said, I simply said "thank god!"

Nobody cares about the actual words Jerry West uttered. It's only the intent that matters to all Lakers fans. We don't care for this debate. LeBron could be Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain combined for all we care. We still root for Jellybean. Nothing changes that.

To us it's only about what West's words do for our man. And for one night we got to see that. Something we've been waiting to see all these playoffs. Something we want to see every game from here on. That Kobe Bryant knows he's the best player in the world regardless of what any newspaper, blog or fan says.

That he plays like he knows he's the best player in the world. That he wills himself to show the world what he is capable of and what that can do for this Lakers franchise. That he will bring back this championship now, no matter what. Because that is what he needs and the franchise needs and the fans need.

And it all happened because of 10 words his "second father" brilliantly chose to utter at a crucial time.

Much like Achilles was teased about Hector being a better fighter before the Trojan War, Kobe Bryant has been riled, and intentionally. All we care about is what those words do to our man. We don't care for the veracity of the observations. It was never meant to be a debate settler.

Jerry West is a shrewd man who knows what he's doing. He just kickstarted the second glorious phase in the career of the best basketball player on the planet.

As Phil Jackson showed Kobe videos of Jordan in his prime, willing those Bulls to playoff victory after playoff victory, and Jerry West does his bit in getting the Lakers closer, all that is left to see if how Kobe Bryant will react.

We've seen Act I yesterday night. The manna is only simply beginning to take effect.


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