Over the last year, Kobe Bryant has learned that as a professional athlete IMAGE IS EVERYTHING!
It seemed so easy for Mr. Bryant. The years of 2000-2002 were the greatest years of this young man’s life. The Los Angeles Lakers won three straight NBA Championships, a feat that has only been accomplish by four teams in it’s illustrious history (’52-’54 Minneapolis Lakers, ’59-’66 Boston Celtics, ’91-’93 Chicago Bulls, ’96-’98 Chicago Bulls). I might add, that an unstoppable force known as Shaquille O’Neal was the MVP of those three NBA Championships.
All that changed on that fateful June night in 2003. Kobe took it upon himself to commit adultery with a 19-year-old high school cheerleader. Of course it seemed like a good deal at the time. I bet it was hard to pass up a cute little blonde who felt that she and the superstar had “chemistry” between them. I do not want to get too deep on the “Rape Case”, as I do believe Bryant was innocent, and the girl was just after money. (In fact I believe she was taking the case to California because she could not get a lot of money in Colorado) This is, however, the point at which Bryant’s image started to decline. Kobe was booed at the American Music Awards. He was booed at a Jay Z concert in Los Angeles.
Kobe spent most of this past off-season figuring out how to get rid of his coach and arguably the best big man in the history of the NBA, and he succeeded. The 2004-2005 Lakers team is totally different from last year’s Western Conference Champion team with three key departures. The Lakers saw the departure of Phil Jackson and Shaquille O’Neal in the off-season, and Karl Malone, who has recovering from surgery and has not played in a game this year, refuses to return to the Lakers. Let’s take a look at the Phil and Shaq situations.
Phil Jackson is arguably the greatest NBA coach of all time. He has been the coach of some of the greatest teams of all time. One of his Chicago Bulls team acquired the best record in NBA history (72-10). The man knows how to coach. He has nine NBA Titles, and in his 14 years of coaching has a record of 1007 wins and 385 losses including playoffs. What more could you want from a coach? In my opinion the man is a first ballot hall of famer. He coached a few guys with huge egos, but Kobe’s was the worst. Kobe and Phil had their differences, and the Lakers front office couldn’t take the chance of their star player and star coach colliding, so they did the same thing they did with then player and coach Magic Johnson and Paul Westhead. “Sorry, Coach, you gotta go.” One of Kobe’s problems was out of the way.
Shaquille O’Neal is a physical specimen. The man is 7 foot 1 inch tall and weighs in at a staggering 340 pounds. “Diesel” dropped a lot of the bulk he had gained the last couple of years and is in tremendous shape. Everyone heard about the petty squabbles that O’Neal and Bryant had during their tenure in Los Angeles, but they always seemed to work things out. At the end of the 2004 season, however, the Lakers had two options: keep Shaq and trade Kobe or keep Kobe and trade Shaq. Now, if you look at why the Western Conference has won 5 of the previous 6 NBA championships, you could see the obvious choice would be to keep the big man. The Western Conference thrives on having the big forwards and centers. The Lakers could have very easily traded Kobe Bryant for Tracy McGrady and kept the big man and perimeter player that has made them so good these last five years.
Jerry Buss has a hard on for Kobe though. Shaquille was shipped off to Miami for the fair Caron Butler, the average Lamar Odom, and the bad Brian Grant. The Lakers also received a future draft pick. You would think that by picking up three players the Lakers would benefit from this trade. HAHA! Not in the least! Looking at the Lakers record (14-11) and the Heats record (20-7), it is quite obvious who is reaping the benefits of this trade. Dwayne Wade was good at Marquette University, and now that he has Shaq to play with he’s emerging as one of the league’s stars. The Miami Heat have a very good chance of winning the NBA Championship this year, and Kobe can stick that in his pipe and smoke it.
On Christmas day, Shaquille O’Neal and the Miami Heat travel to the Staples Center to take on Kobe and his Los Angeles Lakers. At the end of the game, when Kobe Bryant looks at the scoreboard and realizes that HIS team just lost by 20+ points, he realizes that he is not the superstar that he wants to be. I hope Kobe Bryant finally realizes that he cannot carry a team on his back.