The random thoughts of a nash.
the sweet smell of vindication
Published on June 21, 2006 By Gene Nash In Basketball

Ever since Kobe Bryant's ego pushed Shaquille O'Neal out of L.A., I've said, "If there's any justice, L.A. will fall apart and the Heat (Shaq's new team) will win the championship." I even wrote an unpublished article entitled "Die, Lakers, Die!" that expressed those sentiments.

Last night, winning their first game in Dallas since 2002, the Miami Heat walked away with the NBA Championship. Meanwhile, in their first Shaq-less year the Lakers couldn't even make the playoffs. This year the Phoenix Suns humiliated them with a first round elimination. After two years, "Die, Lakers, Die!" has been fulfilled. There is justice, after all.

Shaq smartly did something the egoist Kobe will never be able to do: he recreated his championship dynamic. Shaq simply left and found another hot young phenom with whom he could pair into a "sum of the parts is greater than the whole" situation. Kobe's ego convinced him that only he was responsible for the Lakers' greatness, that only he was needed to win championships, and shattered what actually made the team work. Not only will he never humble himself to a point where he could recreate his championship dynamic -- there's no room for anyone better than or nearly as good as Kobe on "his" team -- but frankly, there's no way he could if he tried. Great centers are just too rare.

Therein lies the Lakers' biggest mistake. You never trade away a good center. Never. Centers are the linchpins upon which basketball teams rely. Teams are built around centers. No center, no team. When the Kobe/Shaq feud came to a head and the Lakers resolved it by flushing Shaq I was dumbfounded. The egoist should have been tossed the first time he started acting up. One man does not a team make. I have to believe that had Jerry West still been with the team, such a foolish move would never have been made. Kobe, for all his talent, is more than replaceable. The Heat's Dwyane Wade proves that easily. A great center? That's a rarity to be treasured and protected above all else.

So, for the past two years, I've done the unthinkable. I've rooted against the Lakers. I've hated the Lakers. I hate Kobe and since he's cowed the entire organization to his will, I hate them all. I hate the weak-minded, namby-pamby front office that has let this ego-driven maniac dictate their downfall -- a downfall so great that now the Clippers are L.A.'s best team. It's gotten so bad that Kobe has approval over teammates, that Kobe gets to interview coaches. That is insane. There is no longer an L.A. Lakers. Let's call them what they really are: the L.A. Kobes.

And at last, finally, inevitably vindication. Shaq's forth championship. Pat Riley's fifth championship as a coach, seventh overall. The Heat's first championship. Only the third team in NBA history to come back from a two game to nothing deficit and take it all, and the first to do it since the league went to a 2-3-2 finals format for home and away games.

That's about the size of it when a smart person faces off against an egotistical fool.

Congratulations to Shaquille O'Neal, Pat Riley, Dwyane Wade, and all the rest. And a brief note to the Lakers: You won't even be able to dream of greatness again till you get tired of that baby's smelly diapers and send him elsewhere. Isn't it time for our long regional nightmare to come to an end? Or do you just like being the Clippers bitch?


on Jun 21, 2006

From one Laker fan to another, I agree (except the part about hating and rooting against the Lakers).  I was rooting for Miami!  I am glad Shaq got another ring.

Well done Shaq!  You just made your team, your coach and your new city very happy.

on Jun 21, 2006

you are right! great centers make great teams with the proper coaching.


Kobe, will just be an after thought in basketball lore.


Shaq will go into legend as one of the all time greats.

on Jun 21, 2006
One the one hand I am happy for the Heat, they have had a long road and much of it has been paved by O'Neal's attitude. On the other hand I wanted a Texan Champ...oh well...there's always next year. In the mean time, congrats to the Heat (Pat Riley has always been one of my favorite coaches.)

Centers are important and I agree that you should never trade away a great center. That being said, a championship team need not be built around a center, just ask Michael Jordan.
on Jun 21, 2006
It's good to see you back Gene. I am not much of a b'ball fan but just wanted to say hi.

I live in Texas so we had to root for the Mavs. They were so sure they were going to win before they headed to Miami that the city was already planning a parade for them.
on Jun 22, 2006
What's funny is, in the Kobe/Shaq feud, Kobe played the victim. It was, of course, all Shaq's fault. Interesting, isn't it, then, that Shaq has a GREAT relationship with Dwyane Wade?

Kobe Bryant is an example of why the NBA should stop drafting high school players. While Kobe was physically ready for the NBA, he was nowhere close to ready emotionally, and his jump to the NBA arrested his development in that area.

(side note: And here, I thought you'd taken up blogging for my campaign with the title of your post!)
on Jun 23, 2006
Kobe Bryant is an example of why the NBA should stop drafting high school players.

I tend to agree with this statement. Not only are most (not all, but most) high school turned pro players lacking in the basic fundamentals of the game, they are heavily lacking in maturity, either in the field of personal relationships or in the field of economics. I don't know any 18 year olds who are ready to handle more than $500,000 a year, much less millions.

Stern is trying to address this issue. More and more teams are looking to Europe for players to fill their rosters, because when they come they are ready to play then, instead of in a few years.