Kobe Vs. LeBron Can Wait. There’s Another Heavyweight Bout Yet To Be Decided.
“It’s a Sexy Match up”. -Kobe Bryant
“We Never Take These Moments for Granted”.-Paul Pierce
It’s that time of year again, and it’s all looking so familiar. What a great feeling. The NBA Finals are already underway, and they’re the pick of the week. The big ticket like Kevin Garnett, starring the Boston Celtics and the L.A. Lakers. Isn’t this the match up everybody wants to see? Well… kind of.
Look back two years and this was the match up of the moment. The Lakers & the Celtics, two of the association’s most recognizable and storied franchises. Two powerhouses, evenly matched and going at it game after game.
There was no David in this story, just two Goliaths’. The anticipation was mouth watering; however, over the last two years one match up has rivalled the instant vintage of Lakers, Celtics Classic.
This is the potential head-to-head match up between Kobe Bryant and the Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James. This is what everyone expected to see this June. The league’s two best all-round players, recent MVP’s and dual ‘SLAM Presents’ cover stars, duking it out.
In the blue corner, Kobe, the best since MJ, holding more in experience, skill and accomplishment. In the red corner, LeBron, the present and future, the all-round player and phenom.
A player who has already accomplished so much and is set to achieve so much more. After all the hype however, alas there are no games scheduled in the Quicken Loans arena this month neither are there any ‘Most Valuable Puppets’ final commercials airing.
The ultimate, winner takes all battle for the best player in the NBA will have to wait.
Fear not though because it should wait. This upcoming Lakers, Celtics match up is of more importance right now.
The finals beginning this Thursday have more significance and more riding on them. For one, if Kobe Bryant wants to claim his status as the greatest in the NBA before he beats the best player in the league, he’s got to win it all against the best team.
The history speaks for itself. Boston have 17 titles to L.A.’s 15. They’ve beaten the Lakers 9 times in the finals. LA have beaten Boston twice. Historically, they have so much more to prove. This could all change over the coming years, starting right now.
Statistically and mentally, Boston has the upper hand, they’re a sprinkle of talcum powder away from slapping the Lakers hard with this fact. The Lakers have suffered many a heartbreak by Boston, only to be left green with Celtic envy at what they’ve achieved in relation to their rivals.
The Lakers have endured it all, from celebratory balloons falling on an empty, solemn, Forum court to Kobe Bryant sombrely walking off the Celtics parquet floor in 2008 with green & white ticker tape falling around him.
It’s moments like that when all a beaten opponent can do is keep their head down, staring at the famous wood that has been the bane of many opposing teams postseason lives.
Kobe’s long walk was similar to Magic’s walk off the Forum floor when Jordan and the Bulls stopped the ‘Show’ before it’s time at the start of the 90s. These so called ‘walks of shame’ may be an NBA player’s lowest moment, but if you look deeper than that, it’s also the moment a competitor like Kobe or Magic renew their focus and regroup.
One year removed from losing on his rival’s court, Kobe was jumping up and down in jubilation on another opposing team’s floor. Reclaiming the championship after 7 long years against Orlando was real sweet, but now, like Nas ‘It Ain’t Hard to Tell’ that Kobe’s still troubled by the Boston loss in 08.
As are the rest of the Lake show. It’s almost like the defending champions won’t really feel like they’ve reclaimed their crown fully unless they take it off the team that took it off them last. That’s the real ‘chip on the Lakers shoulder. Sure, the magic are an enthralling team, but last year fans were craving ‘Lakers, Celtics 2’.
The sequel that everyone really wanted to see. It’s like when Muhammad Ali heard the infamous Howard Cossell commentary, ‘Down goes Fraizer, DOWN GOES FRAIZER!’ Ali knew that even though he would end up the champ, there would still be a score left to settle that would have to wait. This was the same for the Lakers last year. It’s frustrating, but LA don’t have to wait no more. Their time is now.
The Celtics have something to prove as well. They need to prove that their first championship was not merely a one-off. Last year, they fell in the playoffs much earlier than expected. Their defence of their championship left a lot to be desired.
They displayed more the age of a veteran than the heart of a champion. Also, if the Celtics still want to be considered as the best team in the league, they need to show everyone that they can beat a Laker team that battle-tested from previous losses have now won a championship.
The Lakers have the advantage there, but the Celtics will want to show the league that it’s not happening in their house. Whichever team wins this series can start to make their stamp on establishing their own dynasty in this league.
Sure, watching ‘The Mamba’ and ‘The King’ go at it for seven games would have made some classic NBA playoff moments. Two evenly matched players with similar games, guarding each other and going basket for basket, dunk for dunk. That would have been something special, but that doesn’t mean that this series is about to be any less special.
The Lakers, Celtics rivalry has resulted in many defining moments in NBA history, and this series will undoubtedly add more memories to the vault and more fuel to the fire of this traditional, heated rivalry.
It’s not just the fans that want it. Both teams relish this match up too. Phil Jackson expressed to Paul Pierce in the off-season how he wanted him to lead his Celtics back to the finals again, so they could face off again. To see who now really is the real champion.
Both teams are better than they were the last time they met as well. They both have a championship under their belt, they’re both seasoned and closer as units, and they both are dominant to the point where it looks too easy for them.
Think about it, both teams at times managed to coast through the season and playoffs in what looked like second gear. Now, they’re back where they want to be. It’s time for both teams to take one, hard stare at each other, then put the foot down.
The Lakers and the Celtics have also upped the ante (and the crazy) adding eccentric players Ron Artest and Rasheed Wallace respectively. These guys make both teams that much stronger. Ron Artest may not make as many headlines as he used to, but his presence on the court makes much more noise.
Wallace may not be raking up as much T’s and fines as he used to, but he is raking up buckets and hustle plays. More importantly, just like the rest of his squad, he’s experienced in knowing how to beat the Lakers in the finals, (See: Detroit Pistons, 2003/2004 NBA Champions).
So the LeBron show will have to wait a few months, besides everyone knows he’s owning this summer and will look forward to how his future unfolds. Forget about the draft, the NBA free agency will be the real draw over the next couple of months. All eyes will be on ‘Bron, but as of right now that isn’t important because history is about to be made.
It’s all about the two greatest franchise in league history. The tension. The rivalry. Bird and Kareem squaring off. Wilt and Russell going at it. Offence versus defence. Showtime versus hard work. It’s about Magic’s baby hook. It’s about Celtic fans rushing the floor as soon as the buzzer sounds.
It’s the rings on Bill Russell’s fingers compared to the frustration on Jerry West’s face. It’s the Forum and the Garden. It’s the fans. The celebrities turning up in Los Angeles to add shine and the regular folks in Boston driving around the Lakers’ hotel room at 3am, keeping the players awake all night.
It’s Los Angeles versus Boston. Hollywood versus blue collar. ‘Beat LA’ versus a ‘Boston Massacre’. It’s all about Kobe or Pierce. Gasol or Garnett. The Doc or the Zen.
It’s all about players like Bynum and Odom, or Allen and Rondo. Guys all over the floor who can make an impact and difference and change the tone of a series. It’s about two acclaimed teams stacked from 1-15. Bench for bench. Burn for burn. It’s two foes going at it.
Possession for possession. Play for play. Bucket for bucket. Game for game. It’s all about the Larry O’Brien trophy. It’s all about now.
Sitting courtside with the rest of the fans, LeBron will be a witness.