The big news in the NBA this week was the announcement by legendary Lakers player Kobe Bryant that this season would be his last. As with most phases of Kobe’s career, this drew polarizing reactions around the sports world.
From sycophantic Stephen A. Smith lamenting what the Buss family had “done” to Kobe by not restocking the Lakers with talent to the cruel with renewed jeers over the decade old criminal allegations vs. Bryant.
In reality, however, Kobe’s legacy is inexorably tied to two people: Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson.
Jackson, because Bryant became only the second player (along with Jordan) who could successfully operate Jackson’s “triangle” offense, which requires a nearly unstoppable one on one scorer to be at all effective.
Jordan, because Bryant represents what appears to be the end of the Jordan-era preoccupation with isolation basketball as an overarching strategy.
I have to admit, I am no fan of this style of play, and I heartily welcome the current era in which Spurs-style team play, and LeBron’s pass-first mentality predominate.
Nevertheless, to decry the style of play too heartily would be to ignore the greatness of the players who thrived in it, and Bryant will always be the second greatest (after Jordan) to have taken up this mantle.
THE INDISPENSABLE 10
Power Rankings For Players!
(Last week’s ranking in parentheses)
- Steph Curry, G (GS) (1) – Win ‘til Christmas?
- Paul George, G (IND) (4) – Coming on strong.
- LeBron James, F (CLE) (2) – On hiatus.
- Kawhi Leonard, F (SA) (5) – On an amazing run.
- Jimmy Butler, G (CHI) (6) – With Gasol, the new faces of the Bulls.
- Russell Westbrook, G (OKC) (3) – Two guys ain’t enough. . .
- Al Horford, C (ATL) (–) – One of the most underrated big men in the game.
- Chris Bosh, F (MIA) (7) – Meet the new boss. . .
- Dwayne Wade, G (MIA) (–) – Same as the old boss. . .
- Blake Griffin, F (LAC) – Not gone, but forgotten?
What’s the hot rumor this week?
Amidst evidence surfacing of Sixers rookie Jahlil Okafor getting involved in a street fight in Boston, the 76ers suspended him two games. Almost immediately, both the team and former Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski released statements strongly suggesting that the punishment was a preventative measure, and that Okafor, in no way, should be considered any sort of “problem child.”
The Sixers had better hope not. While the team continues to wait for Joel Embiid to get healthy or Dario Saric to get to North America, Okafor has been stellar for Philadelphia, giving real traction to the notion that this, indeed, is the last season the team will be “tanking.” That belief, however, will only last as long as Okafor’s good will can match his play.
Observations and opinions on this week’s action
“Emotions were riding high. it was a great feeling to be back out there and see some of the old faces. The fans were great to me, but I knew my emotions were going to play a part in it.” – Raptors F DeMarre Carroll, on playing (and beating) his former team, Atlanta.
“I work on those shots. I work on my game a lot. Actually sometimes it’s a little easier when you get someone bigger because you have to get it over the top of them and you just float it right over the top of them.” – Cavaliers F LeBron James, on his pretty game-winning running hook over Nets C Brook Lopez.
“You said more smart stuff about basketball than Shaq has said in three years.” – Charles Barkley, welcoming guest analyst Lisa Leslie to the panel.
“I know our fans are better than Brooklyn’s fans. It will be a good game. Brooklyn, they’re struggling this season. But they will try to win the rivalry as we want to win.” – Knicks rookie F Kristaps Porzingis, booed on draft night, further ingratiating himself to the Madison Square Garden faithful.
“As long as I keep playing like this, I know I’ll have some options.” – Bulls F Pau Gasol, indicating his plan to opt out of the final year of his contract next season.
“Jah is one of the great kids ever. Ever, ever, ever. Look, anybody who pictures that kid as some bad kid, you’ve got to be kidding me. He is one of the most loving, good kids who has ever happened on this earth. But he did a couple stupid things. OK, knock him, suspend him, let’s move on.” – Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, defending his former player, Sixers C Jahlil Okafor. Okafor was suspended by the team for two games following an incident in which he got into an altercation with a heckler in Boston.
“This is the only time I’ve ever enjoyed doing one of these, and it’s because you’re back with us. Now, ask me an inane question.” – Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, welcoming TNT’s Craig Sager back to the sidelines after a winning battle with cancer.
Featured image via Dime Magazine