This led me to the idea that growing pains happen in the NBA like no other sport.
Put into context the much maligned behavior of Kobe Bryant immediately thereafter Shaq’s departure during the 2004 offseason. Missed playoffs, two consecutive first round defeats to Suns (4-3) & (4-1), finals loss to Celtics, and now entering game 5 of the 2009 NBA Finals with a 3-1 advantage.
The behavior I spoke of was his attitude towards his teammates, GM, and the Lakers Franchise. Don’t forget he criticized management for not trading Andrew Bynum for Jason Kidd. Bynum may be the key piece to this years’ title, and Kobe pretty much condemned him openly and publicly.
Basketball can be dominated by one player more than any other sport and that is what captivates you. You watch each possession and your mind is swaying from side to side on what will he do, pass or shoot?
Rare it is to see a player come into the NBA and achieve championship success at such an early stage in their careers. Occasionally we see early winning like with Magic, Larry, Duncan, & D. Wade, but those can be attributed to hall-of-fame teammates on the rosters.
Way more often we see what Michael Jordan, the Pistons, Rockets, as well as Shaq & Kobe’s Lakers deal with en route to championship glory. See LEBRON JAMES first six years!
MJ tasted defeat six year in a row before even reaching the NBA Finals, but won in his first attempt. 6 championships in 6 appearances in the Finals ensued to become THE GREATEST PLAYER OF ALL TIME. His six early exits before his first Finals in ‘90-91 were as follows: 3 straight First Round losses, a Semi-final loss & 2 straight Eastern Conference Finals loss to the Pistons.
The ‘Eighties Pistons led by Isiah Thomas had four early playoffs exits. Following those were a NBA Finals loss before winning back-to-back in 1989 & 1990. Isiah has now fallen flat in life after basketball. He has ruined the CBA, Toronto Raptors, Indiana Pacers, & New York Knicks and now will try to do the same with FIU.
The Hakeem Olajuwon led Houston Rockets of the Mid-1990’s had much more growing to do then the two previous. He managed to reach the Finals (but lost) in his second season (with the help of Ralph Samson) only to not return until the ’94 Finals. Olajuwon lead the Rockets to back-to-back titles in 1994 & 1995.
The Shaq led Lakers at the turn of the century truly with through much defeat as well. Shaq & the Lakers lost two straight years to the Jazz, which was followed by a Semi-Final loss to Tim Duncan’s Spurs. A Three-Peat in 2000, 2001, & 2002 followed. Even when Shaq went to Miami they lost in the Eastern-Conference Finals in 7 to the Detroit Pistons, prior to a Finals Championship in 2006.
Bringing us back to where we started with Kobe Bryant’s chance to win the crown jewel of it all, the Larry O’ Brien Championship Trophy. This is how history is made, so the only question remaining is how long until Dwight Howard returns to the Finals?
Let’s hope for a great game 5 and maybe Dwight can keep the trophy out of Kobe’s hands just a couple more nights!