Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas
Why the Lakers were supposedly the favorites over the Celtics is a bit of a mystery. You know the old rule: when in doubt, go with the superstars (plural). The Lakers, whatever you think of the superstar status of their coach, only had one. But don’t blame Kobe for this failure. And don’t blame Kobe for not being like Mike. Remember, Mike wasn’t Mike until the emergence of Scottie Pippen (check your NBA Top 50 of All-Time list). Kobe? Like most superstars, he needed another – Shaq. And even when Shaq won one without Kobe two years ago, he found his other superstar – Wade.
The reality of the NBA for the last ten or twelve years and, for the most part, in the history of the league, is that you need more than one guy. You know the list going back to the late 90s: Jordan and Pippen, Duncan and Robinson, Shaq and Kobe, Duncan, Ginobili and Parker (Finals MVP), Shaq and Wade, and this year’s trio of KG, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.
The only exception, arguably, is the Detroit Piston team of 2004. But what a talented team that was – Rasheed Wallace a superstar? No, but borderline when at his best. Billups and Hamilton – All-Stars and arguably the best backcourt in the game. Prince? A difficult to guard guy who was a great defender in his own right. Ben Wallace – a rebounding fool. That’s a stunning team whose defense surpassed anyone’s in recent memory.
This Celtic team won because they could (and did) smother one guy with stunning defense. It’s hard to quantify even with good defensive numbers. It’s frustrating for a guy like Kobe and nobody really stepped up to help him.
Kobe’s a hard guy to like. Whatever happened in that hotel room in Colorado was bad. The only question was how bad? An arrogant guy? You betcha. Trade me? How stupid does he look now? But it’s not his fault they lost. It’s like defenses ganging up on Barry Sanders all those years with the Lions. It’s not a one-man sport. Similarly, in basketball, Michael could and did make the big shot but he also could and did make the big pass with confidence (Steve Kerr, John Paxson, even Bill Wennington – you get the point).
The Lakers have a nice supporting cast. Pau Gasol – excellent in the regular season but it remains to be seen where he tops out in a big series (good, not great so far). Lamar Odom – ultra-talented but only in bursts. Is consistency in his future? Andrew Bynum – missed the learning curve this post-season. But none of these guys, it says here, will rise to Shaq and Kobe or Michael and Scottie or even Duncan and Parker. They’re close, but they’re still far away.
Kobe took a beating this week for “not being Michael.” But is Michael really the greatest basketball player ever? Not really. The greatest basketball player ever is either Oscar Robertson (go look at the numbers) or Wilt. The greatest basketball champion is, of course, Bill Russell. The greatest athlete in a team sport is Babe Ruth. And the greatest athlete ever is Jim Thorpe (did you know that, in 1950, a group of expert sportswriters voted Thorpe number one with over twice as many votes as Ruth – somehow, ESPN flipped that vote and had Jordan leapfrog both of them in their Top 50 of the 20th Century. There’s no chance that those rankings are correct).
But give Michael credit because his greatness is that he’s high on all of those lists. That’s his greatness and it shouldn’t be hard to understand.
But never forget: Michael won nothing without Scottie and it says here that until Kobe gets superstar number two to play with him, he won’t get ring number four.
Kobe and his coach go back to the drawing board far ahead of where they were a year ago. But it will be extremely difficult for them to get back to the NBA Finals (remember, next year is an odd-numbered year so it must be San Antonio’s turn), let alone beat the Celtics, who will probably be laying in wait for them this time, next year. We’ll see.
© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas. All rights reserved.