After the Lakers blew away the Magic in the first game I wanted to write a post announcing that the series was over. No way the Magic beat the Lakers. I resisted because, as Yogi says, it ain't over till it's over. I also resisted crowing when the Lakers won the second game and went up 2-0. It's hard for a team to come back after losing the first two games.
The fourth game was pivotal. The Lakers went into it with a two games to one edge. If the Magic win that game, the series is tied, 2-2. But the Lakers won in overtime, making it 3-1. The difference between 3-1 and 2-2 is immense. At 2-2, it's a best two out of three series. At 3-1, the team with one win is facing elimination and has to win the next three in a row. But I kept my quiet after game four because of what Yogi says.
Okay, now it's over. Hollywood beat Disneyworld. It took the Lakers five games to beat the Magic. The Magic lived by the three-point shot and died by it.
Dwight Howard, the Magic's center, is the best center in the game, but he has never shown that he deserves to be ranked among the best of all time. Sometimes he disappears in games. He has a million dollar smile -- he really should try acting -- but it's still a question whether he has the toughness and will to be a champion. His Superman dunk in last year's all star game was, as the kids say, sick. At best he might end up basketball's Ted Williams -- a great player whose best moment was in an all star game. (Or in the slam dunk contest on all star game weekend.)
Kobe Bryant proved he has what it takes to be a champion. He will be considered one of the very best that ever played the game when his career is all over. If he stays healthy and productive for another five years, his points total will approach Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's 38,000 and some.
Phil Jackson won his 10th ring as a head coach. Derek Fisher was asked what makes Jackson a great coach. He said something to the effect that he's not a dictator. He leaves you free to be you and make your own choices. Oddly enough, that's exactly what I like in a stage director. I hate the directors who have all my blocking plotted out before the first read-through.
The Lakers got a little lucky this year. Both Yao Ming of Houston and Kevin Garnett of Boston were injured in the playoffs. A healthy Boston is a much harder team to beat than Orlando. It would be great to see the Lakers beat the Celtics for the championship next year.
The Lakers also got a little lucky when they picked up Trevor Ariza. I think they made that trade mostly because they wanted to dump Maurice Evans and Brian Cook. Ariza looked like he would be a guy who comes off the bench in defensive situations. He played so well that he became a starter. He defends well, he can shoot the three as well as drive to the basket and dunk, and he is the most talented thief in the game. I've never seen anyone steal the ball as well as Ariza.
Maybe the Lakers also got a little bit lucky when they picked up Pau Gasol, the most skilled seven-footer in the league, for, like, nothing. But as either Branch Rickey or Winston Churchill once said -- I've seen the quote attributed to both -- luck is the residue of design. Give General Manager Mitch Kupchak his due.
It's amazing where the Lakers are today, considering the disarray they were in just two years ago, with Kobe demanding a trade.
Next year the Lakers are the team to beat. Every place they go on the road will sell out their seating all the way to those nose bleed seats next to the air conditioning ducts. The opposing teams will play at their adrenaline-fueled best against the champs. The 2009-2010 season will be a gauntlet that will leave the Lakers lean and mean for the playoffs.
The dynasty began tonight.