Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and the Rebirth of the Showtime Lakers

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IMay 5, 2010

LOS ANGELES - MARCH 19: Kobe Bryant #24 and Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrate during the game with the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 19, 2010 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.  The Lakeres won 104-96. 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 Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

I became a life-long fan of the Los Angeles Lakers in 1980 when a skinny rookie by the name of Earvin "Magic" Johnson guided his team to a NBA championship, while playing center in place of an injured Kareem-Abdul Jabbar.

In that memorable Game Six, Magic had more than 40 points and 15 rebounds, as well as seven assists, and from that moment on my allegiance to the Lakers was simply a matter of course.

1980 was the beginning of a magical time in Lakers' history, for Johnson went on to lead Los Angeles to four more championships as the lead guard in what came to be known as the Showtime era.

That group of players, consisting of names such as Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Byron Scott, Michael Cooper, A.C. Green, Kurt Rambis and others is considered one of the most dominant teams of all time.

The Lakers earned their Showtime moniker because of the flair they brought to the court, the tempo at which they played, and the flawless rhythm that Magic established while running the offense.

Magic at the head of a fast break was truly a thing of beauty, and with finishers like Worthy and Scott filling the lane, you could surely expect fireworks above the rim.

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The Lakers circa 2010 may not play with the same flair as the team of the '80s, and one would be hard pressed to prove they are anywhere near as exciting, but this team does share some similarities with that fabled squad.

Magic and Kareem were the centerpieces of those Lakers' teams, and they represented the best two players at their respective positions, and the 2010 Lakers can arguably make the same claim.

Kobe Bryant is generally regarded as the best guard in the entire league, and while Pau Gasol is not usually thought of in terms of the NBA's best power forward, there are points in his favor.

Gasol has undoubtedly been the best power forward in the playoffs so far, and if the postseason ended today he would definitely be the MVP for the Lakers at least.

Gasol has increased his scoring average, rebounds, and shooting percentage in the postseason, and his seven-foot frame and wide array of post skills makes him a terror to defend for opposing players.

Versatility may be the best way to describe Gasol, as he is comfortable shooting with either hand, while also a competent passer, and his talents translate to the defensive end of the floor as well.

In the first two games against the Utah Jazz Gasol has recorded seven blocks and his length has caused the Jazz to alter many of their shots at the rim, but Gasol's best attribute may be his chemistry with Bryant.

Before Gasol arrived in 2008 Bryant was a captain without a side-kick, but once Gasol was added to the Lakers' roster, the team under went a seismic shift, which has seen them capture three straight Western Conference titles.

The Lakers were a good team before Gasol arrived, but his presence made them a great team almost immediately and his transition to the triangle offense was so seamless, it seemed he had been running it for years.

Bryant and Gasol's bond is evident on the court, and even though Bryant has suffered through periods of disappointment in Gasol's play, and the same can be said in reverse, they both credit each other with the Lakers' meteoric rise from irrelevance.

It is in much the same manner that Magic often gave most of the credit for the Lakers' success to Kareem, and the legendary center would do the same for his equally legendary point guard.

Magic and Kareem were the anchors of the Showtime Laker teams, but they were surrounded by an abundance of talent who all excelled in different areas of the game.

Lamar Odom, Ron Artest, Andrew Bynum, and Derek Fisher are representative of players like Worthy, Scott, Cooper and Green, who all added their own imprint to the Lakers' strength.

There are some glaring differences in the two teams, and at a glance the most glaring one would be the complacent attitude that has sometimes plagued the 2010 version of the Lakers.

The passion and drive of Magic would never allow his teams to get too complacent, and he had the Lakers ready to play on every occasion, whether it was the regular season or playoffs.

The '80s team was glamorous for sure, but they also had a nasty edge with players such as Green and Rambis who acted as enforcers, and were never afraid to back down from a mental or physical challenge.

Artest is probably the most physical member of this Lakers' team, and although the 2010 version of the Lakers have been accused of playing soft, lately they have shown they are more than capable of holding their own.

Both teams prided themselves on defense, and it is this category where they are most similar, because this year's Lakers have been the best defensive team in the playoffs, and when motivated are the best defensive team in the NBA.

The two teams had different approaches to success, as Magic's teams liked to push the tempo and run an opponent out of the arena, while Kobe's teams grind an opponent down with the precision of the triangle offense.

But the measure of both teams has been the number of championships won, and Magic's teams were able to capture five in a decade, while Kobe's Lakers could approach that same number this year.

These two eras may stand as the best in the long and glorious history of the Lakers' franchise, and even though they appear to be different on the surface, their paths have led them to almost the exact same conclusion.

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