L.A. Lakers: Kobe Bryant Ready to Strike, Rewrite 2008 Script

Ian CCorrespondent IJune 1, 2010

ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 14:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers holds the Bill Russell MVP trophy and the Larry O'Brien trophy after defeating the Orlando Magic in Game Five of the 2009 NBA Finals on June 14, 2009 at Amway Arena in Orlando, Florida. The Lakers won 99-86.  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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

"Black Mamba, attack conquer/
Basketball beast, rap monster/
Crossover good, a turnaround jumper/
Or just drive in the lane and dunk on dunkers/
You know where it's going, it's going down yo/ 
This is the Lakeshow, but don't drown though/ 
I call him King Bryant, now let the crown show."

—Lil Wayne, "Kobe Bryant"

It is appropriate that AMC ran the edited version of Kill Bill —you remember the "Party Wagon," don't you?—over the holiday weekend.

By the way, there were so many bleeps, I thought the NBA Finals had already started and that ABC, instead of AMC, had mic'ed up Kevin Garnett.

Kill Bill , you may remember, was the movie that introduced us to the lethal powers of the black mamba snake and inspired Kobe Bryant to give himself a nickname, a bold move attempted only once before in popular culture, by Seinfeld 's George Costanza.

Of course, that kind of moxie only enhances Kobe Bryant's attraction to local fans and the Laker faithful. No matter what off-the-court pouting or trouble Kobe has been in, the guy finds his way back into our good graces. Sure, he's a prima donna, but he's our prima donna (even dressing the part for the local newspaper's photo spread). 

The mellowing that comes with old age and returning the Lakers to championship glory also helps.

Kobe faces his latest and toughest test of fan appreciation and his place in the NBA pantheon: overcome the demons of the past—Paul Pierce playing possum (Game One), the Lakers giving back the largest first-quarter lead in NBA Finals history (Game Four), and the no-show (Game Six)—to beat the Boston Celtics. Call it "Kill Beacon Hill."  

Killing that leprechaun is as close to a Laker hero myth as there is. Jerry West, the Logo and the man who brought Kobe to Los Angeles, never did it, even though he was the MVP of the 1969 NBA Finals, which the Lakers lost to the Celtics, 4-3.

In 1985, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar overcame the disappointment of the previous year's Finals to do what West never did. Magic's baby hook helped to seal the rubber match in 1987.

There are a million angles you can look at with this Finals matchup, and I'm sure they will all be exhausted a million times over before Thursday's game.

The Lakers didn't have a healthy (or even "healthy") Andrew Bynum.

The Celtics didn't have this Rajon Rondo.

The Celtics are older.

So are the Lakers.

The Celtics didn't have to worry about one of Rasheed Wallace's patented meltdowns.

The Lakers didn't have to worry about one of Ron Artest's.

The Lakers didn't have homecourt advantage.

The Celtics didn't need it.

The only angle that really matters at the championship level is this: the Lakers still have the best active basketball player in the world, Boston, and you don't.

If this Black Mamba constructed his own "Death List Five," one imagines it would look like this:

1. Surpass Michael Jordan's six NBA championships.

2. Beat the Boston Celtics for a title.

3. Win a title without Shaq.

4. Score the most points in a game by someone not named "Wilt." 

5. Run Shaquille O'Neal out of town and establish myself as sole star of the team.

Recently on a local sports radio show, Kareem himself said, in reference to the contrast between the perennial championship Lakers and the perennial playoff roadkill Phoenix Suns, "It seems that the script was written that the Lakers get the girl every time."

On Saturday, the Lakers got the girl yet again. Sorry, Phoenix, to paraphrase the ending of the appropriately-set L.A. Confidential , some teams get the world. Others get the ex-Clipper coach and a long offseason in Arizona.

There hasn't been an ending in the desert this predictable since the last time the Roadrunner outsmarted Wile E. Coyote.

Now, as we embark on what could possibly be the most hyped NBA Finals matchup since 1991's "Magic vs. Michael," do you bet against Kobe and Los Angeles, the town where the protagonist wins, no matter how preposterously?

Do you bet against Kobe and these Lakers, who continue to strain the suspension of disbelief, from Big Shot Rob's miracle, to Derek Fisher's 0.4 finish, to Artest's "Ron-demption?"

There's something to what Kareem said. How do you go against this script?

Mamba loses championship. Mamba loses dominant center. Mamba loses coach. Mamba wins coach back. Mamba wins two centers. Mamba loses championship. Mamba wins championship. Mamba... 

Hey, just sayin', but there's still plenty of room on the "Party Wagon" before the next Hollywood ending.


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