Saturday, July 10, 2010

Lakers x 16

So I heard that the Los Angeles Lakers won one of those championship things or something. That's pretty nice.

This season was somehow the most emotionally insane for me. Maybe it was just by default as Ron Artest's general craziness must've transferred to me since I was so elated at his signing and completely sure that he would never have a blow-up this season. That moment-by-moment tension could have done it. Or maybe it was the 17 games apiece missed by Pau and Bynum conjoined with the constant fear of Andrew's inevitable new season-ending knee injury. Or maybe it was the fact that Kobe made less than a hundred three-pointers for only the second time in the last eight seasons (with the other being the '04 trial year). Or maybe it was the fact that we needed literally 7 game winners to drop from Kobe's dislocated/fractured/crippled/arthritic fingertips that, record-wise, would have dropped us from 1st place to out of the play-offs in the West. Or maybe it was the fact that Shannon Brown actually became a 20-minute-a-night rotation player when his only reliable basketball skill is dunking on a fastbreak. Or maybe it was because we never had a single late season stretch that you could point to and proclaim as a reason that the Lakers were the best team in the 2009-2010 season. I don't know. Regardless ... I was stressed.

The prevailing talk before the first round was whether the Lakers could possibly be considered the underdogs while facing the eighth seed in the West. While Kobe & Co. may not have exactly dominated their way through the final two weeks of the regular season, the fact that the conversation was held at all is ridiculous. Kevin Durant is nice and all, but he's the future. Kobe is the now. And while everyone was waiting for LeBron James to claim his (apparently) inevitable first championship, Kobe was putting in work. Spanning over the course of the first three series, the Black Mamba put up six games stringing together 32, 31, 30, 35, 32, and 40 points, all in winning efforts. The Thunder were supposed to be the up-and-comers with enough firepower to surprise the champs. The Jazz were supposed to be the rough-and-tumble band of misfits led by D-Will and Booze who could have been the best team in the West if not for the injury bug. The Suns were supposed to be the revamped run-and-gun, 2-time MVP-led squad that dominated the second half of the season and were poised to break into the Finals. The Lakers knocked them all out without so much as sniffing an elimination game. Of course we needed a set of miracle game-winning rebound-putbacks by Pau and Ron Ron off of Kobe misfires to achieve that feat, but I'll take it.

And then we had to face the dumb Celtics. I'll have a soft spot for Rondo due to his UK-loyalty forever, but I still hate them. All of them. Every screen is moving, every call is b*tched at, and every conceivable level of arrogance is surpassed. The perception is that the Boston trio is a band of winners, even though they have 16 seasons of missing the playoffs between them. They're old, they're fake, and they're one hit wonders. But oh well. Even though the Lakers decided to wait until the Finals to have their first series deficit at 2-3 going back to L.A. for the final two games ... we still won. That's all that matters.

This year was a big deal for Kobe and the rest of the team. We unfortunately needed this title for affirmation. It was nice that Bryant won his first title without Shaq last season, but it wasn't as sweet as it should have been because it was against the Orlando Magic. Kobe didn't directly eliminate LeBron in the Finals and Kobe didn't exact revenge against the Celtics' defense that stifled him a year prior. If the Lake Show had lost these Finals, it would have validated the detractors who claimed that L.A. won by default of Kevin Garnett's knee injury. This championship had to be had because it was figuratively worth two of them. With the win, Kobe forcibly cemented his status in the ring of the game's all-time winners. He has more hardware than Shaq and Duncan (his modern era competitors). He matched Magic. He's one under Michael. It's his most important to date. It gives him the opportunity to step onto the same plateau as anyone not on the 1960s Celtics or named Robert Horry with one more perfect season. While LeBron James is still ringlessly fighting the expectations of his career in worst-case scenario fashion, Kobe is fighting his way into the upper echelon of all-time great and creating a resume that will eventually be inarguable.

This season was my absolute favorite in my seven years of keeping up with every microcosm of the NBA. It ended in an end-all, be-all Game 7 that was perfect for every terrible reason that a sloppily-played, nerve-inducing, highly-physical game can be played. And the Lakers won. My guys. It's the reward for all of my own personal (literal) sweat and (figurative) blood that I shed during the year-long grind of fandom. I care. Probably more than I should. But this year's Laker squad made it worth it. Sucks to be a Celtics fan. We got revenge. You all are dismantling and starting over with Rondo within the next calendar year. I got a summer to just relax.

Who am I kidding? I'm already stressed out again over the draft and free agency. Here we go again ...

... and do the John Wall.

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