In a season of irregular menstrual cycles (no offense to Pau Gasol) -- starting the year 8-0, losing four-in-a-row, winning seven-in-a-row, losing five-in-a-row, losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers, winning seventeen-of-eighteen, then going on a five-game-losing streak to end the regular season, struggling distractedly against a mediocre New Orleans Hornets club in round one of the playoffs -- the Lakers ended 2010-11 not only by being swept by the Mark Cuban Mavericks (losing the final "win or go home" game by 36 points) but by becoming a group of guys who would clearly go home rather than spend another second in each other's presence. Or with their (now gone) head coach.
As a Lakers fan since before they got Magic Johnson, I've never felt the emotional attachment to the post-Shaq "Kobe Lakers" I had with the Showtime teams of the 80s (not even close) or the Shaq Threepeaters of 2000 - 2002 (or the goofy Nick Van Excel clubs of the 90s). The problem is Bryant. His "spirit" has dominated the team since 2004, even with the chastening of Phil Jackson's return in 2006. There is no joy in Kobeville. Whether the team is on a five-game losing streak or repeating as NBA champions, with Kobe is it always grim, grim, grim. And tight. While absolutely one of the greatest atheletes (and winners) of his time, Kobe Bryant is a bore. Not someone at all easy to like in the way we like to like our athletes, something close to a crush. When the 80s Lakers would lose to the Celtics or Sixers or Pistons, I would feel bad as a fan but even worse for Michael Cooper, Mychal Thompson or James Worthy. It's impossible to feel bad for Kobe Bryant.
And many of the current players must feel the same wa...
... middle of paper ...
...through him. He continued to sit out the last six minutes of every game. Why, Phil?
The worst part of the collapse is Jackson going out this way. I'll miss him very much. The easy thing about being a Lakers fan, aside from all the winning, is that it's an organization of class, wit, and intelligence. Unlike the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dallas Cowboys, there's nothing piggish or underhanded or cynical in how the Lakers win titles. Phil Jackson embodies these good qualities (as Kobe does not) in ways which are true and unique. (The Laker teams between Jackson's two coaching reigns were drab and grim -- they took on Bryant's aura not that of their head coaches.) While Game Two of the Mavs series was coming to its dispiriting close, the fans at Staples Center booed, left, yelled bad words. And no one acknowledged they may never see Phil Jackson again. And now they won't.
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