Shaq, tell Kobe how that tastes
Kobe Bryant proved he can win an NBA Championship without former teammate Shaquille O’Neal.
All of the ‘Kobe haters’ can be quiet because Bryant has tied O’Neal with four championships in Bryant’s six trips to the NBA Finals.
Bryant had 30 points, six rebounds and five assists in the 99-86 Game 5 victory over the Orlando Magic at Amway Arena in Orlando, Fla.
En route to winning 2009 Finals Most Valuable Player, Bryant scored at least 29 points in all five games as the Lakers dominated a Magic team that appeared satisfied with just being there.
It truly was a remarkable season, and one of redemption for Bryant and the Lakers. They held the top spot in the Western Conference nearly all season. They were a different squad from last postseason, when they lost to the Celtics in the Finals. After defeating the Jazz in five games, the Rockets in seven and the Nuggets in six, the Magic was no match.
All of the analysts who said LeBron James had dethroned Bryant as the best player in the NBA were not even close. James won this year’s MVP, but his team was overmatched by the Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Bryant is still the best player, and he’s on the best team. This team owes much of its success to the best coach in North American professional sports history, Phil Jackson.
Much has been made of Jackson’s teams, specifically his star players and how he always appears to have the best talent in the league. He has teamed up with Bryant for four titles and Michael Jordan for six.
It helps to have players of that caliber on your team, but give Jackson credit for assembling a squad of complimentary parts around Jordan and Bryant to help him win these titles.
Jackson could not have done it with only Jordan or Bryant, as James is finding out in Cleveland. Players like O’Neal, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Lamar Odom, Derek Fisher and Pau Gasol are more than interchangeable parts.
With his latest championship, Jackson passed the late Red Auerbach, who won nine titles as head coach of the Boston Celtics. All of Jackson’s 10 titles have come in the last 19 years, more than half of the NBA championships during that span.
One could argue that Bryant is one of the greatest players of all time. He has a regular season MVP award, averaged 25.1 points per game during his career and four NBA titles under his belt. Plus, he’s only 30.
Bryant is a leader who learned from losses in the 2004 and 2008 Finals. The most recent left him especially hungry for a title without O’Neal.
Bryant has also evolved into a star who can get his teammates involved early in games and impose his will during clutch moments. Turner Network Television should feature him in their hit show The Closer, because he is the premier version.
Lakers’ fans have a lot to look forward to, as the core of their championship squad is set to return next season. This young and talented group will only benefit from playing with a leader like Bryant.