Lakers-Celtics: Not with a Bang, Barely with a Whimper

Maybe now the Kobe stroking will stop.

Well that was disappointing.

After all the hype and hope generated by a Lakers-Celtics Finals, we ended up with a lackluster series culminating in last night’s horror show: a 131-92 Boston massacre which cemented the Celts as world champs for the 17th time, and sent Kobe and the Lakers back to L.A. with their tails between their legs. While the ease with which Boston dispatched Los Angeles may have been surprising, the result wasn’t. Once the series got rolling, it quickly became clear the guys in green were the superior team and it was only a matter of time before they started making plans for a parade.

What seemed to surprise many people, though, were the feet of clay possessed by the seemingly superhuman Kobe Bryant. Outside of a sterling performance in Game 3, Kobe was held in check by a swarming Boston defense. In the grand scheme of things, this shouldn’t seem so shocking. The Celtics were the proud owners this year of a D that ranked among the best the league has ever seen, and showed during the regular season that they had the wherewithal to get Bryant off his game.

But for whatever reason, none of that was deemed relevant before the series began. The Kobe lovefest was so out of control at that point that some members of the media even tried to convince us that Bryant was better than Jordan. As in Michael. You know, the greatest to ever play the game. That’s all. It was ridiculous and premature at the time. Today, it seems like it should be grounds for immediate revocation of all sports journalism rights from now until the end of time. Or perhaps those misguided souls should be destined to a lifetime covering curling. That might the most appropriate punishment of all. It would certainly teach them a lesson they’d never forget. But I digress.

It’s at this point where I remind everyone that I am far from infallible. I flip-flopped on my playoff predictions time and time again. But I take solace in one thing: Before the postseason began, I implored everyone to at least consider the possibility that Kobe isn’t even the best player in the game, much less the equal of MJ. I felt at the time—and of course, still do—that LeBron James is the cream of the NBA crop. And when one considers that LBJ came within an eyelash of lifting a thoroughly mediocre supporting cast past the mighty Celts, that argument looks pretty good right about now; especially since Kobe and Co. couldn’t even push Boston to the brink despite the Celtics’ assortment of bumps and bruises they sustained throughout the Finals.

So what’s the lesson? Well, for one thing, we learned you should never, ever stop thinking for yourself; especially when the mass-media hype machine kicks it into overdrive. In 2008 alone, we’ve already seen the Patriots, Lakers and Kobe prematurely crowned. Hey, that’s just the world we live in these days. It isn’t going to get better anytime soon. But that doesn’t mean we have to shut our minds off and give in to it.

And finally, we learned it’s time for everyone to stop the desperate search for the next Michael Jordan—at least on the basketball court. Because I’ve got news for you: The next MJ doesn’t dunk or drain threes. He’s too busy making mincemeat of the PGA tour. That’s right, I’m talking about Tiger Woods.

Now that guy is superhuman. - Jason Friedman

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