Weekly Countdown: Legacies on the line in this year's Finals
The NBA Finals has greater meaning whenever the Celtics and Lakers meet. Here are five potential outcomes we'll be discussing in a couple of weeks.
Johnson faced a more traumatic atonement when his favored Lakers lost to
The Celtics' 2008 victory wasn't Bryant's fault -- he was beaten because his younger teammates were unprepared to win a championship. They matured to win last year's Finals while holding home court to finish Orlando in five games. Yet, Bryant is taking personal responsibility for beating Boston this time. Since he first joined the Lakers 14 years ago, he has been keeping score with the goal of matching or surpassing the most accomplished players of his franchise, and the league overall.
The first time
Now the ball is in Bryant's court. This is not the main reason he needs to win this Finals, but it is important nonetheless: He does not want to look back on his career knowing he went 0-2 against Boston. In terms of titles won overall, he may yet surpass Magic, but a second loss against the Celtics would leave Bryant in second place behind his hero and friend in terms of this crucial rivalry.
This mission to beat Boston was behind the quiet in their locker room last weekend as the Lakers received their trophy for winning the Western conference in Phoenix. The mood was so sober and introspective that you might have thought they were the losers. Which, in a sense, they were: Bryant establishes the tone and approach for his teammates, and he continues to view the '08 loss as a result that must be overturned. Bryant has since won a championship without
For most of his career Bryant has been identified as a potential successor to
6: Michael Jordan
Some of the championships were shared, which is why the numbers don't add up. I'm sure that some of you will write to remind me that
Consider what is at stake in this Finals. If Bryant wins, he'll stand one title short of Jordan with reason to hope that
Garnett is on this list because his presence on the Celtics two years ago -- when he was an MVP candidate and Defensive Player of the Year -- enabled them to win that championship. He is no longer playing to that high level, but then again, neither was Shaq when he won his fourth ring alongside Wade in Miami. The fact remains that the Celtics can't go anywhere without Garnett, as proved by their second-round elimination in last year's playoffs while he was injured, and he too will move up on this list by winning another title.
If they hold a small party to celebrate the Celtics with the most rings, then Larry Bird,
Pierce ranks No. 3 all time among Celtics scorers with 19,899 points, and he should move ahead of Bird (21,791) sometime after next season -- though he likely will never catch franchise leader Havlicek (26,395). To understand how important Pierce rates his place in the history of the Boston franchise, remember how he reacted as the 17th banner was raised before last season and he was greeted by Havlicek, Cousy and Heinsohn. As he lifted the trophy, Pierce sobbed, understanding that he was now part of their club.
Pierce won't retire with as many titles as the others, but he will be credited for his perseverance and loyalty over the nine years he spent waiting in Boston for the arrival of talent to contend for championships. Just as the outcome of this Finals means everything to Bryant, so too will it carry the same impact for Pierce if he is able to help Boston win twice in a row.
Is Garnett the most valuable Celtic, or is it
The Celtics' current method is the most difficult way to win a championship because it depends on teamwork and balance. When the Lakers are in trouble, they depend on Bryant to pull them along. The Celtics' answer to hard times is to move the ball and create the best shot regardless of the identity of its shooter.
A win in this Finals would help
If the Lakers succeed in utilizing their home-court advantage, they'll win their 16th franchise championship to leave them one behind the Celtics. And Los Angeles owner Jerry Buss will have won his 10th championship since buying the team before Magic's arrival in 1979-80.
Bryant has better help. But I'm going to argue that he has helped bring out the best in his teammates (which is something a lot of people doubted he could manage). It's a chicken-or-egg argument: His success has much to do with his teammates, but they're success depends on him as well. Based on what we've seen in the playoffs so far, I don't see how anyone in the league could be rated equal to or ahead of Bryant.
The reports stated that both teams were connecting with Jackson's people via "back channels." Whether that means speaking with his agent or a friend is unknown, but if the Bulls and Nets had openly contacted Jackson then they, too, would be guilty of tampering.
Turner needs the ball and for him to achieve his potential much of the offense will have to be run through him. But I don't view this as a bad thing for the Sixers, as they're in need of floor leadership. Maybe they'll prefer to take
I hear you, Mike. But he interviewed very well with teams at the Chicago pre-draft camp and made a strong impression.
It's always this way with young players in the draft. In Europe they can never believe that someone like
"The NBA has a mentoring program, and I'm Kevin Durant's and
"If you're a young player, there's nothing stopping you from calling me or Kareem or
"It comes back to fundamentals and timing, and as a ball player that's what I had. I had great timing -- I could set you up to go right, to shoot the right-hand hook. That's timing. Shoot a jumper to create space. Take it to the hole and slow down and fake and then shoot over you. Then it comes down to touch, and I had a great touch off the glass. I think now I have great touch on the putting surface, I can hit to the line where the ball is getting ready to break and then watch it break into the hole."
"I have eight programs here in San Antonio for kids and I have a charter school for about 830 kids this year, from kindergarten through high school. I was born and raised in Detroit by a single-parent mom. She raised six of us -- four boys and two girls -- and kept us in different programs, cub scouts, boy scouts. I'm a product of programs, so I understand how important it is to keep young people busy to stay focused and get your education. I've got a saying: You can do your 1-12 in a school education setting, or if you don't you can do your 1-12 in prison."
The maker of the figurine "did a great job executing my posture of me finger-rolling an ABA basketball with an ABA uniform. I don't think people understand how I did the finger roll. You hear all the time on college games -- the WNBA or NBA -- you hear announcers saying somebody scored on a finger roll. I'd be saying, 'What? That wasn't a finger roll. That was a jelly roll.' Because they don't understand it. It's almost like you're downplaying that ability and skill that I made famous. A guy will go to the hole and just scoop it and they'll say, 'Finger roll.'
"I remember I was in Michigan one summer playing pick-up, and I scored on a finger roll. And afterward, one of the other players said, 'Mr. Gervin, you rolled one on me, and all I wanted to do is go get the coffee so we could have coffee and rolls.' That was just so funny."
• Times have changed. Two years ago when the Celtics and Lakers brought their NBA Finals to Los Angeles, Stern gave a news conference to defend his league against allegations from Tim Donaghy that NBA referees had conspired to extend the Kings-Lakers conference final of 2002. On Thursday, without referring to Donaghy, Stern appeared on the same L.A. stage to passively declare that his league had survived the refereeing scandal. He cracked jokes and appeared to take joy in the absence of questions about fixed games.
My own feeling is that I still cannot believe the scandal came and went without more damage to the league. Does the public really not care? Has the league truly improved its oversight of officiating to deal with the issues raised by Donaghy's actions? I have my doubts on both points.