Eleven years ago, Jerry West, then the GM of the Los Angeles Lakers, drafted a 17-year-old hot shot from Lower Merion High School near Philadelphia. The rest was history—a history that had continued up to this week.
Yes, Jerry West and Kobe Bryant had a history together even though West left the Lakers in the hands of his assistant, Mitch Kupchak, several years ago. But this week, West came out and said that he thought LeBron James had surpassed Kobe Bryant as the greatest all-around player in the NBA.
However, West did grant Kobe Bryant one domain, which he alone possessed, that of "Finisher." Speaking of the closing moments of a tight game, West said that he would want the ball in Bryant’s hands.
Well, after that miracle shot heard around the world last night in Cleveland—at least around the NBA world, King James has taken that domain away from Bryant.
Of course, it was only one time and one game. I know that. So, I’ll give my critics that much. However, when the Lakers-Nuggets game was on the line Thursday night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, in whose hands did Phil Jackson put the ball?
Was it Kobe Bryant’s hands? The hands of the best finisher in the NBA?
No, even Bryant’s own coach refused to call his number. Jackson decided that the Nuggets would be double-teaming Bryant. He decided that Bryant, the so-called greatest closer in basketball, could not make the game-winning shot in that situation.
Instead, Jackson chose to use Bryant as a decoy and had Derek Fisher, who was a pathetic one-for-nine, take the shot. Fisher missed, of course, and the Nuggets won the game and took home court advantage.
Then, the next night, with just one second left, King James, also closely guarded, takes the inbound pass, turns and, just like you see in commercials and feature films, he hits the game winning three-pointer.
Not only did that miracle three-point shot beat the Orlando Magic and saved the Cavaliers from going down a surprising two games-to-none, but it ended Kobe Bryant’s legacy as the best finisher in the game.
From now on, it will be LeBron James’ name at the top of every NBA shooting statistic other than foul shots. And he will not only be known as the best player in the game but also the game’s best finisher.
What do you think now, Mister West? Do you agree?