No Shaq, No Robert Horry – A True Champion on the Rise

The NBA’s three best players were quite busy yesterday. Miami’s Dwyane Wade sued his ex-business partner for libel. Wade’s ex-partner made allegations Wade used illegal drugs and steroids. Apparently the allegations were worth $100 million to number 3.

Cleveland’s Lebron James was fined $25,000 for skipping the postgame news conference after Cleveland lost to Orlando in the Eastern Conference Finals. Lebron failed to congratulate opposing players and coaches after the loss. NBA Commissioner David Stern came close to not fining Lebron. After some consideration, Stern remembered Lebron’s earnings and decided King James would survive.

Finally, Kobe Bryant proved a wrecking force in Game One of the NBA Finals. Kobe was “unstoppable” on Thursday evening, posting 40 points, eight assists, eight rebounds, two blocked shots and two steals. Kobe was everywhere and did a little bit of everything even provide a myriad of photo-ops with his various facial expressions.  

“You just put everything you have into the game and then your emotions just kind of flow out of it,” Kobe said in pre-Finals media conferences. That emotion was evident Thursday. Kobe played with anger, determination and just overall deep-seated passion.

Neither team shot the ball very well, Orlando finished at 34.8 percent and L.A. at 33.3 percent. However, much to my dismay, the Lakers kept Orlando center Dwight Howard relatively quiet. The center finished with 12 points and 15 boards. It wasn’t only the Lakers big men who kept the beast in his den. Several Lakers, Kobe included (had an impressive block against the center), contributed to defending Howard.

Howard left Staples Center longing for support. Only two other Magic players scored in the double digits. Save forward Marcin Gortat, no one really helped Howard on the boards. More importantly, nobody could stop Kobe.

“I just want it so bad that’s all.” Kobe said after the win. “I just want it really bad.” Kobe does want it bad. The Black Mamba is still looking for his first championship without former Lakers center Shaquille O’Neal. But if you ask rapper Lil Wayne, Kobe is already the league’s best player:

What they want? They want Kobe? And what he want? He want the trophy, the vic-tory and the glory. No Shaq, no Robert Horry.”

Although I despise Lil Wayne for saturating the hip-hop market with his whiney vocals, I cannot stop listening to his newfound wisdom. Still, Lil Wayne’s perspective only carries so much weight. And although commentators have already crowned Kobe the Finals MVP, there are still several games to be played.

This is two-fold. In the next few games, Kobe will likely continue to shine and end the debate over who is the league’s best player. However, Orlando Head Coach Stan Van Gundy also has the opportunity to adjust and exploit some of the matchups.

So, as Kobe emerges as the league’s best, another question arises: Whom is Shaq rooting for in this series?

Only jesting. Lakers in six. 

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