Maybe I was sorry for basketball itself, and all those neutral fans out there, that just wanted to tune in and watch a great series. A championship is a championship, I know, but something was missing. I know that might sound a little greedy, but what can I say? When it’s true, it’s true. I was trying to pinpoint what it was for a few days, and I think I’ve finally figured it out. The thing that I’m missing are the days when you turned on the NBA finals and you couldn’t take your eyes off the screen for a second, because every moment, every point, and every elbow seemed to matter. I miss those great seesaw battles, with two evenly matched teams, two clear stars. I miss Magic and Bird. I miss the two evenly matched supporting casts they had, willing to battle until the last second for that slim advantage that could make or break a game. Back in the day, a slim advantage actually could make or break a game in the finals. Nowadays it seems like every other game is a blowout. Nowadays the most exciting battles in the postseason take place in the series that lead up to the finals, rather than during the championship games. Games two, three, and four of this series were great to watch, without a doubt. And that being said, it would be hard to deny that Derek Fisher’s clutch shots in game four provided a couple of stunning moments. But by and large, this series was not anywhere near a fantastic finals to watch.
All in all, I think this series means more to Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson than to anyone else. Kobe took one giant step, out from under Shaq’s big shadow with this title. He also took another big step in his attempt to chase down all the greatness that Michael Jordan represents. Even if Kobe were to win two more titles, to tie Michael’s six, there are always going to be folks who complain that Kobe’s first three were really Shaq’s anyway. It’s kind of a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation, but you can tell that Kobe is going to fight tooth and nail to match or even trump Mike by a title if he can. As for Phil, he’s reached the Zenith of Zen with ten. He’s got one more than Red Auerbach now, so he’s already in the spot that Kobe wants to be in. I’m betting that both of them will smell more titles and come back for a few more seasons, as long as Phil’s health permits. Why? Because when you’re on top it feels good, and if you want to stay on top you’ve just got to keep going, even if it gets a little boring from time to time.