Tag Archives: Los Angeles Lakers

LEBRON TO THE LAKERS? A LITTLE RISKY, AND MORE BRILLIANT

Jay C. Brandriet

7/2/18

These LeBron James decisions have become familiar, massive television events. The delivery is getting smoother and the choices are getting better. The story broke last night. Four years, 153.3 million dollars. LeBron is leaving Cleveland to  join the Los Angeles Lakers.

We know these takes remain a little blurry. The Lakers and other teams are still incomplete. This squad will look different in a few years.

This move is a little risky, but it’s more brilliant.

It’s risky because he’s playing in the Western Conference. This group of teams offers a ton of heavy weights. Remember the Battle Royal in the WWF? It’s brilliant because he is showing he is willing to give up his grip of Eastern domination, to come hang with the “big boys.”

It’s risky because he has to play the Warriors to get to the Finals. It’s brilliant because he may as well get in there and go nose to nose with them. He is already connected with that group for life. Friends close, enemies closer.

It’s risky because he is playing on a must win stage. He is competing in the shadow of the best individual players in NBA history. It’s brilliant because he will ultimately win. He will become one of those Lakers shadows.

What if he failed in L.A.? LeBron is more self secure than he used to be. He’s showing lack of fear to do this.

The Lakers fan base is a nation. Tonight, “King James”  took their love hostage. The prize athlete in the sport is with its most glamorous franchise. He is normally the top story.  In L.A, he is THE STORY. LBJ just made sure the defending champion Warriors  are the second most popular team in the state of California.

Some imply this will be James farewell act. Not true. He will only be saying goodbye to his prime. He will do it chasing Michael Jordan under the brightest of lights. He can never be as perfect as Mike, but he will match him by taking different roads to GOAT island. He will do it with the volume of greatness.

Winning in multiple cities is one angle ( I think he gets at least one ring with the Lakers).  He will be relevant as an active player for more than two decades. It will be during the noisy internet, social media era. He is now in Los Angeles? He’s piling on. Basketball society will be overwhelmed by his long-term relevance, as he smashes records nightly. LeBron loves to control the narrative.

Even if James teams up with a player as top shelf as Kawai Leonard, this time LBJ doesn’t look as bad. The Warriors have gotten to the point they are seen as skilled bullies. More “super teams” are about to be seen as normal.

It’s ironic my favorite player (“Magic”), just joined forces with LeBron. Russ Riggs gets it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

He is in the best place for his family and his entrepreneurial goals. You know this is going well when Dan Gilbert and Cavaliers fans are celebrating LBJ today.

Jeanie Buss and Magic Johnson are the right people in the key seats.  I like the fit basketball wise. James meshes with everyone, and this team is full of young, ready to improve talent. Tonight they also added JaVale McGee and Lance Stephenson. Both add physical impact. More shooters and help are still on the way, this year and next. LeBron and Luke Walton will get along  just fine. Walton will let James run things, but has enough experience and respect to maintain his status.

L.A. has struggled for a handful of years. LeBron is about to save the Lakers. He sure picked a good story to control.

 

Jay C. Brandriet

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TIM DUNCAN WAS NOT ALONE AS THE BEST PLAYER OF HIS GENERATION

Jay C. Brandriet

5/13/18

 

Duncan provided the highest level of stability. Bryant was more capable of "owning the game".
Duncan provided the highest level of stability. Bryant was more capable of “owning the game.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Tim Duncan said goodbye to the game of basketball two summers ago, the focus should have been on his brilliant career. Instead, it was an opportunity for the media to take shots at Kobe Bryant. Both players are now retired after a combined 10 NBA titles and 33 All-Star games. Many claimed “Duncan was the best player of his generation.” They said it so nonchalant, as if it  was common knowledge. I heard “at least Tim didn’t take 50 shots in his last game.” There was,  “Duncan retired with so much more class than Kobe.” Everyone kept bringing up the amount of money Bryant was paid his last two seasons. These takes are meaningless to the argument. You not liking Kobe, doesn’t change that he’s exactly, on the Tim Duncan level.

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While they overlapped with Shaq and LeBron, Tim and Kobe are the most successful NBA players over the last 20 seasons.

 

MY TAKE ON BRYANT

Kobe had as much skill, balance, and competitive heat as anyone who has played the game. His desire  to be a student, ability to make difficult shots, and fundamentals were as good as it gets. He had Hakeem Olajuwon trained footwork and his handles have gone under the radar. Above all else, “the black mamba” was a spectacular performer. He excelled in pressure. Scoring 50 in a game is a dream for most guys. Kobe once dropped 55 in a half. The Lakers star poured in 50 plus points ten times….in one season. I remember a week and a half stretch where he hit the game winning bucket each night. Kobe not only bailed out Team USA in the clutch for a gold medal, the best players in the world were begging him to do it. He was close to “Michael Jordan good.” Let that sink in.

 

MY TAKE ON DUNCAN

It was memorable to watch Tim Duncan be so poised and capable of being the best, on the biggest stage, as just a youngster. He later grew up battling Garnett, Webber, Rasheed Wallace, and Elton Brand every night. Duncan was the man among those men. His brains, his array of post moves, back to the basket game, cool use of the glass, and unselfishness stand out. Tim had terrific hands and was a precise passer. He is likely one of the five best defensive players of my lifetime. The guy was still protecting the rim well as an older player. “The big fundamental” was a winner his entire career. His teams won 50 or more games in 17 straight seasons. Tim was the face of consistent, humble dominance.

 

SO WHO WAS BETTER?

It’s close! It’s a real debate. Their careers are equal. Taking each guy at their very best, it’s Kobe. His greatness was more jaw-dropping. Choose Duncan for the work on the floor. Don’t be clouded by him being the guy who should lead boy scouts, while Bryant is the teeth grinding villain. This is how we would go back and forth. You’d say Timmy has one more MVP than Kobe. I’d tell you Bryant has been the Western Conference player of the month 16 times to Duncan’s 3. You’ll say Duncan has one more Finals MVP. I’ll bring up Bryant averaging 29/7/7 on a record-setting 15-1 playoff run where Kobe was not MVP. You’ll say Kobe had Shaq. I’ll say the Spurs were awesome and Shaq had Kobe. You’ll say Duncan was a better teammate. I’ll say Kobe had the aggressive confidence of a lion. You’ll say Duncan had a better regular season winning percentage. I’ll add Bryant played in one more NBA Finals than Tim. You’ll bring up the big mans tremendous defense. I’ll agree, but we all  know Kobe was a super defensive player. You’ll say Duncan took less money to give back to his franchise. I’ll say Bryant was  more compelling and helped globalize the game. If you think Tim Duncan was the best player of his generation, it’s a legit take…It’s just not a fact.

 

 

EVEN AT KOBE’S WORST, HE PULLED OFF HIS BEST

Jay C. Brandriet

6/27/18

It was only 26 months ago. Kobe Bryant’s final game was a bit more than another one of his gems. I know this is a guy who has played in the NBA Finals for a living. He’s bailed out a team in an Olympic gold medal game. He once scored 55 points in a half. Because of some unique circumstances, I believe this was the finest moment of his illustrious career.

 

These are the factors I’m considering:

 

WHO WERE KOBE AND THE LAKERS IN 2016?                                 

The Lakers were horrible. This was a 16-65 group stuck in mud. Kobe had his moments that year. Just moments. There were eight or nine games where he played very well. Facts are  his body was shot from injury and basketball mileage on his legs. He had become what I’d feared most…a gunner who could no longer shoot well. Bryant’s efficiency was disgusting for an NBA starter. Two days before his last game, he shot 4-12 and scored 13 points at Oklahoma City. He sat after 19 minutes with his body covered in bandages and ice. This had become a typical scene.

 

THE UNIQUE STAGE THIS GAME PROVIDED

Not everyone knows whether or not it’s their last game. In this case, we all knew for the majority of the season when Kobe would lace them up one more time. If healthy, he would finish April 13th 2016, in Los Angeles playing Utah. As the date approached it was obvious this was going to be an epic happening. This was a rare, high-profile evening built around seeing a specific player in a swan song. The stage was bigger than the game. It was like the Oscars at a pro basketball game. It felt like the Super Bowl of Kobe.

 

THE LAKERS OPPONENT THAT NIGHT

The Utah Jazz had known for just a short while that they had been eliminated from the playoff race. With injuries and resting guys, this was certainly a short-handed Utah team. It’s still the Utah Jazz. They are  one of Kobe’s fiercest rivals and are well coached by Quin Snyder. This crew from Salt Lake City handed Bryant his biggest ever loss just two weeks earlier. Utah rocked the Lakers by 48 points while Kobe scored one lonely bucket. Utah and L.A. fans agree, this matchup is always personal.

The way Kobe was able to play and entertain on command, is a remarkable feat in all of sports.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MY EXPECTATIONS FOR KOBE IN THE FINALE

The scenario I’d hoped for Bryant was to score 21 points on poor shooting. I thought the Jazz would win by 16 or 17. My biggest goal as a fan, was that he did not embarrass himself. We learned later, that Shaq (sitting court side) challenged him to score 50.

 

HOW KOBE PLAYED AND HOW THE GAME TURNED OUT

Number 24 came out swinging and missed his first five field goal attempts. The Jazz were controlling the game and it looked like a familiar sight for these Lakers. Bryant kept firing like never before and something awesome happened. Things went from everyone wondering how many points he would score in this loss, to the realization that he had pushed the Lakers to a stunning come from behind victory.

In the last three minutes of the game he scored 15 points hitting his final five shots, four free throws and added a dime. In total he scored 60 points (38 in the second half), had 4 rebounds, 4 assists, a block and a steal. He  out scored the Jazz himself in the fourth quarter 23-21. With intense pressure to perform, he was prime Kobe because the occasion called for it.

Haters predictably ripped him for taking 50 shots. Scoring was Kobe’s NBA super power. He always showed us his greed for greatness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHY THE IMPACT OF THIS GAME IS EXTRA SPECIAL

I’m not being a prisoner of that last moment. I saw Kobe play more than 1,300 times. He’s done way bigger and badder things over his journey. There was something different about this one. Did you see Kobe at the podium after the game? He was giddy like a child at recess, but he was in actual shock. Even with all the player has done, knowing he had a group of guys spoon-feeding him shots, he could not believe how things had turned out. It was like the “sports Gods” doing a major favor, for a guy that did not need one.

I knew Kobe would be a legend the second I saw his eyeballs. He took over a Finals game as just a 21 year old in 2000. Shaq fouled out in overtime and Bryant said, “I got you”. I was not surprised. When he out scored the Mavericks 62-61 through three-quarters in 2005, I felt it brewing the day before. For the first time, this guy did something I did not think he was capable of. I was a “Kobe doubter” for one night and he burned me. I was in shock with you Mamba. People always talk about first impressions. Kobe just proved how you say goodbye matters as well.

On his last basketball breath, in a game that called for him to be high-caliber regardless of circumstance…,he pulled off maybe his smoothest trick. He then got on the microphone, to give a speech that ended with “What can I say-Mamba out!” Even at his worst, Kobe pulled off his best.

Jay C. Brandriet

 

 

 

 

 

 

DO YOU REALIZE SHAQ HAD KOBE TOO?

Bryant was arguably the best player of his generation. Someone that good can not be "carried".
Bryant was arguably the best player of his generation. Someone that good can not be “carried.”

Kobe Bryant was denied the credit he deserved while playing with Shaquille O’Neal. Any time the discussion of Kobe’s place in history would come up related to his three rings I was told “Kobe had Shaq.” How many times did I hear “Shaq carried Kobe?” My favorite was “Kobe will never win it all without Shaquille.” I was offended by these outlandish takes. I told you guys then Kobe would succeed, and now I’m here to remind you. When the Lakers beat the Orlando Magic in the 2009 NBA Finals, I heard a broadcaster say a line that really left an impression on me. He said, “four time champion Kobe Bryant.” What did I just hear? Did he win four titles tonight? I don’t remember him getting credit for the first three. His fourth title, and first without O’Neal validated Kobe out of a shadow he should not have had to fight.

Peoples fixation on “Kobe HAVING Shaq” comes from a few places. Kobe had so much swagger out of the gates, having proved zero, it rubbed people the wrong way and made him an awesome villan. Michael Jordan fans resented Kobe for talking like Michael, chewing his gum like MJ, and using his moves. Those same Jordan lovers feared Kobe. Phil Jackson had made it clear Kobe was Michael’s equal in skill and killer will. The last and most obvious reason is Shaq was an amazing basketball player. O’Neal is one of the 10 greatest players of all time. During the Lakers three peat in the early 2000’s, he was the most dominant and best player on the planet. Shaq was the ultimate mismatch of the day. He was as close to an automatic bucket or dunk as you can get. What you may not remember is Bryant was the NBA’s most skilled player, and its second best overall.

The Los Angeles Lakers of the early 2000’s were a unique dynasty. They were a top heavy team who had the world’s two best ball players. When you get into comparison talk don’t give me that “Batman and Robin” garbage when you talk about Shaq and Kobe. Robin had very little game. Kobe Bryant during his physical prime was not like a little pet lending a helping hand. Here are some perspective points to Kobe’s level while playing with Shaquille:

Over the three championship seasons Kobe averaged 25.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 4.9 assists. He attained these numbers having to contain himself and cater to O’Neal.

In 2002 the Lakers were an all time best 15-1 in the post season. Bryant averaged 29.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 6.1 assists.

He was on the ALL-NBA Team and the All-Defensive Team each year.

In game four of the 2000 NBA Finals after Shaq fouled out in overtime, a 21-year-old Kobe told his teammate “I got you.” Bryant hit all five of his shots in the extra session leading the Lakers to victory.

In February of 2003 Kobe scored over 40 points in nine consecutive games. He dropped 50 plus in two of them and the Lakers went seven and two over that stretch.

Shaq set the tone and was the unquestioned hammer. Kobe was the wicked talent and the closer. He handled the ball in the last five minutes of games play making for himself and others. Kobe also was protecting O’Neal at the end of contests because he hit 31 percent more of his free throws.

Kobe was an impatient young man who wanted to rule pro basketball. Shaq was the alpha dog and big brother figure in the locker room. Kobe thought he worked harder than O’Neal, while Shaq thought Bryant was a hot dog. Soap opera or not, when the lights came on Shaq and Kobe performed and played brilliantly together. They did not have the connectivity of a Stockton to Malone or Magic to Worthy. They didn’t have the cool similar styles that MJ and Pippen or LeBron and Wade had. Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant won big and did it with opposing game styles and personalities. These two players are both legends of the game. Why hasn’t anyone ever said, “Shaq had Kobe?”

After escaping the Boston Celtics in game seven of the 2010 NBA Finals a reporter asked Kobe…”I know for you this is a team accomplishment first, but what does this fifth world title mean for you individually?” With zero hesitation Bryant said, “one more than Shaq.”

Jay C. Brandriet
2/19/14