Saturday, April 29, 2006

Rebirth of Kobe Bryant

Man, who is this guy?

Could it be that Kobe Bryant has finally arrived?

I've watched the last three playoff games against Phoenix, and I honestly have been shocked, and amazed by what I've seen. What I'm seeing is the birth of a player who embraces team concept, over individual achievement. He's become more Magic Johnson, instead of Dominque Wilkins.

I admit I've been harsh regarding my feelings on Kobe.

I'm a Lakers fan first, and foremost. I love to watch the team game. I grew up in the 80's with Magic Johnson's pass first mentality. In the 90's pre-Shaq, Jerry West assembled a team full of good players, instead of having just one superstar.

To me Lakers basketball always represented one thing: Team work.

For me it was too hard to watch a team I love become a one man show. I don't think there was ever a time in Lakers history, while I've been alive at least, that a Lakers team depended so heavily on just one player.

For me it just wasn't fun to watch.

I was awe struck like everyone else when Kobe scored 81 points. But I didn't feel it was great basketball. To me it was a circus act. Something cool to talk about for a couple of days, but in the end how does it help build the team concept.

But these last three playoff games have been a revelation.

Well first off, Phil Jackson is a genius. To get these players on the same page, and playing the way they have been has been nothing short of remarkable. I don't know what else can be done to illustrate what an amazing coach Phil Jackson is.

Maybe the best ever.

I don't remember watching a team so prepared and focused more than this Lakers squad. I mean it's a team that has serious flaws. Although it's fun to watch, ultimately I don't think they have a realistic shot to win the championship this year. But if they keep playing the way they have been, the team will not lose because of lack of effort, or basketball I.Q.

In the end, I think it will be the lack of talent.

Which doesn't bother me. The reality is that other teams out there just have more talent who have more experience assembled. No amount of work, practice and effort can overcome that.

But man, next year WATCH OUT!!!!

This team doesn't even resemble the train wreck that was last year's team. Lamar Odom is showing his true form. Kwame Brown is finally fulfilling his potential, and Luke Walton is stepping out of his father's shadow, and becoming a well rounded, fundamentally sound all around good player.

But ultimate credit has to go to Kobe Bryant.

As much as I hate to admit it. I underestimated Kobe. I felt that he would not be able to put his ego aside, and do what's best for the team. But to be honest there was nothing in the past to demonstrate that he had this potential in him.

Before these last three playoff games, the term leadership didn't apply to Kobe. He was a talented, and prolific basketball player, but not a great leader.

Not anymore. I love watching a fiery Kobe as he defends his teammates from opposing players, and giving up himself and sacrificing his individual game to set up his teammates to succeed. It's the kind of potential that made so many people anoint Kobe as one day being the greatest player to ever play the game.

I mean the guy still isn't the most affable person in the world. I think there are some character issues, and just an overall arrogance that I can't get over to fully embrace him. And I can't ever fully forgive him for forcing Shaq out.

But I'll gladly watch this version of Kobe who scores 16 to 21 points a game and gets 8 assists and 6 rebounds, while emotionally leading his team, and getting his teammates involved, any time.

I'm sure there is going to be some growing pains for him and the Lakers. I'm curious to see how he reacts when there is some adversity, or when things go very bad, which I'm sure will happen....eventually.

I'm just hoping that this isn't just one of his teases, where we see his potential, and he resorts back to his selfish ways. This needs to be a change for the good. Kobe needs to be the team player that he obviously can be.

I'm hoping this is the new and improved Kobe.

Individual glory, should never outshine team achievement.

It looks like Kobe is finally understanding that......hopefully.

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