Friday, May 23, 2008

The Evolution of Kobe Bryant

I have always been a Kobe Bryant hater. I think of him as a cocky, ball-hogging, backstabbing adulterer, a symbol of everything that's wrong with the NBA. During the offseason, it seemed as if I couldn't hate him more. He threw his teammates under the bus, demanded a trade, and pretty much threw a tantrum like a five year old kid. Like a good parent, the Lakers didn't bow down, let Kobe cry it out, and reminded him of who paid the rent (or multi-million dollar paycheck). Knowing how little time they had until little Kobe would act out, the Lakers went and got Kobe a little brother (Pau Gasol). The Lakers went on to the #1 seed in the West, Kobe got his MVP, and it's been good times ever since.

Comparing Bryant to a snotty brat might seem like I'm bashing him, but I've actually enjoyed this evolution. He was spoiled with Shaq, Phil and three rings at a very young age. It was no where but downhill for him, and we unfortunately had to bare witness to the attention-grabbing antics Kobe displayed since then. Shaq can't complain - he came out of the whole thing as the nice guy and ended up getting another ring anyways. Speaking in terms of only basketball, everyone was the better for it. Especially the world's best player.

In about half a season, Kobe has learned to be a leader and a team player. The league was buzzing with talk about the Celtics, Chris Paul and LeBron, while Bryant and the Lakers took a backseat. And this was fine by Bryant. He seemed to understand how lucky he was with the Gasol signing, and that he can't win a title by himself; something only a young player on top of the world would think anyways. He's been at the bottom, hated and accused of rape. He now realizes how hard it is to have a championship team, and how limited the time of a professional athlete is. After all, the #1 seed in the East is comprised of past their prime All-Stars desperately trying to do what he has already done three times.

I think it's safe to say that Kobe gets it now. With the kind of spotlight that shines on the stars of today, you can't really blame him for his antics. It's really telling to watch who was once the most arrogant player in the game be humbled in a matter of months. Now we can go back to watching the guy we thought he was - the one who scores 25 points in the second half against the defending champs. AKA, the best player in the league.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Playoffs dwarfed by the regular season for the NBA

Most basketball fans will agree that the 2007-08 NBA regular season was one of the best in recent memory. Watching the return of glory for both the Celtics and Lakers, Lebron giving Garnett-like effort every game, the beast that is Chris Paul, landmark trades, and of course, the seeding race in the West. It made the 82-game marathon watchable again. But then, the playoffs began.

Once again, the Suns-Spurs cage match came to soon, and ended the same way. And like the Suns, the Mavs showed that their blockbuster deal had as much substance as 'Superhero Movie'. The only drama came in the form of Atlanta taking Boston to a game 7. Which was horrid, because we all want to watch the Celtics, and nobody - NOBODY - wants to watch the Hawks for more than one series. So why has this postseason been so much more boring than the months preceding?

Mostly, because the same old thing starts to happen. Nobody is beatable every night because the good teams always step it up. You HAVE to play your A-game to beat the Lakers or Pistons. Nobody is taking any nights off. That's what has fueled college basketball for so long; the idea that any night can be an upset in the making. That's not the case in the pros, and never really has been.

The biggest difference this season, however, is the schedule. Every night you could watch teams busting their asses in the regular season. I loved getting off of work, cracking open a beer, and just enjoying a game. Now, I have to wait until the over-hyped, over-commercialized game comes on once every two days, knowing it will probably not live up to expectations. December games have no expectations, they simply are. Add in the fact that the second game doesn't end till after midnight (1:00 in the East Coast), and I'm already in bed.
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