KOBE VERSUS SUPERMAN - IS IT OVER?
The fascinating things about sporting events are that they don't always follow the scripts. Before any given contest, fans on either side can give you at least a hundred reasons why the person or team that they are rooting for will be the winner. Some fans try to be objective; others are so passionate about their favorites that it would be painful for them to even consider not being victorious.
Last week, the Orlando Magic rolled into Los Angeles, after having won an upset victory over King James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. This derailed some of our expectations, since most of us already knew that we would see a dual between the King and Kobe.
We did not see Superman as much of a threat.
The Series between the Magic and the Cavaliers gave us an opportunity to become better acquainted with Dwight Howard. Most of us already knew that he was a great player, and we had seen him win a Slam Dunking Contest. However, his performances against the Cavaliers were both eye-opening and frightening. He had his way with them, and then he smiled and gazed westward. He had to pass through Los Angeles in order to get the Championship Trophy. He was on a roll, and he could not be stopped. At the least, that is what many fans thought at the time.
However, we need not have worried. There was someone here who is not afraid of Superman. No, it is not Lex Luther, it is Kobe Bryant. As it turns out, he had already designated this year as the one in which the Lakers would win the NBA Championship. This is not an obsession with him, it is more than that. To him, it is the reason for his existence. Unlike the rest of us, he was thrilled that Superman was actually coming to town. He was planning on tugging on his cape.
Bryant ranks up there among the most fearless athletes who ever lived. He may not always be a lot of fun, but he is a relentless competitor. He cannot be intimidated or discouraged. Win or lose, he will keep coming until the contest is over. Not only that, out of necessity, he also coaches and motivates the other players. If they are not focused, or not working hard, he will get right in their face and tell them so. This is usually not a good approach, but in my opinion, it is the right one for this team. Although Coach Phil Jackson has won many championships, in my opinion, he is not a great game coach. He is a great manager of talent and he has been very successful with talented, self-motivated players, like Jordan and Bryant. If a player isn't doing his best, or needs to do even more, Bryant will be in his face yelling at him. Jackson will be calmly sitting on the bench, possibly thinking about how smart he is, and the clever lines that he will use at the Press Conference after the game. He has the absolute need to let the public know what a great Zen Master he is.
As this article is being written, the Lakers are preparing to play Orlando in game three of the NBA Championship Finals. The Magic figures to be tougher on their home court. The fans can inspire their own team and intimidate the referees and their opponents. In other words, Superman will be at home. So far, he has not played up to the level that his fans expected. Therefore, the Lakers are concerned that they may face an eruption of his talent. The fact that we don't know how this is going to come out, is what makes sports so exciting.
Every player on the Lakers knows that winning this championship is the most important thing in the world to Kobe Bryant. If, for any reason, they lose the championship, then none of the players will return to the locker room to face Bryant. Instead, they will leave the court in their uniforms, go directly to their cars, and then go home and hide. They will remain in hiding, until they received official notification that it is safe for them to come out. That being the case, I am predicting that the Lakers will become Champions this year. I do not think that they will sweep the Magic and that the series could go seven games before it is settled.
I think that this year will be the last one that the Lakers will have an opportunity to win a Championship, until 2014 or later. Some groups from China have bought the Arena that LeBron James plays in and they have also invested in the team. So, for the first time Cleveland has the financial wherewithal to add several good players to their team. The Group from China plans on making James their Marketing Icon in the Far East, for shoes and other sports paraphernalia.
They expect to sell billions of dollars worth of products annually. This means that it is financially important to them that he be the MVP on an NBA Championship Team. The amount of money that they will need to spend to accomplish this is trivial, when compared to the amount that they will make. They do not care about salary caps or luxury taxes. Their goals are much larger. However, enough about the future. Superman is in Orlando and he is waiting... Does it get any better than this?