Basketball Jones

I used to love this time of year. The weather gets warm, women start dressing better, the semester's almost over, and the NBA playoffs are in full swing. Only, for the past couple years, I haven't enjoyed the playoffs as much…as in at all. The biggest problem I have is with the Disney corporation's presentation of the games. I know ESPN is the worldwide leader in sports and all that, but they don't know what to do with the League. Right after NBC lost the contract, one of the first questions my friends and I had was whether ABC would keep the John Tesh theme that NBC used. As soon as I found out that the answer was no, I knew it would be corny. And I was right. The opening music stinks and the production sucks. I don't even care anymore. The quality of the basketball is not so hot either, but even then, I would at least care that a game was coming on. Now, it's just like…I'd almost rather wash dishes than watch a game on ABC. The irony is that ABC has the best football package. Maybe it's all about the theme for me. One of the last things I told my kids when I taught was that Kobe Bryant would average a triple-double wthin five years. The kids used to try on a daily basis to convince me that Allen Iverson was better than Kobe. I told them they were crazy then, and I hope they have seen the error of their ways since. I used to think that if AI had Kobe's size AI would be better, but I’m not so sure any more. They're both terminally hardheaded, although I think Kobe is marginally more coachable than Iverson. (Then again, that ain't hard to be.) Three years later, I'm pretty sure that there's no shot of Kobe averaging anywhere close to double digits in assists. I mean, with Shaq in the post, it's hard to imagine a player of Kobe's caliber not getting 10+ assists at least once a week. He's never fully developed that unselfish aspect of his game, though. He occasionally shows flashes, but more often than not, it's all about number 8. This is me lamenting, because I've gone almost completely circular on Kobe. When he first came into the league, I was a Hater. Capital H. I didn't like it that he came straight out of high school, and I sure didn't like it that he forced the Hornets to trade him to the Lakers. I thought he was overrated and purely egotistical. I crowed at those early playoff failures, when he airballed the Lakers home in Utah. But even that was nothing compared to the animus I felt for him when the Lakers traded Eddie Jones principally because Kobe had to start at the 2. Oooh I hated him. When the Lakers went out again, I was satisfied once more. But in the meanwhile, I saw something that made me respect him, even if I didn't like him: he dunked on Dream. I remember that play clearly. The Lakers were in the playoffs against Houston, maybe the first round or something, and Kobe did a tip dunk right on Hakeem Olajuwon's head. At that point, I started to be like, "he's a punk, but he got game." Then came the 2000 conference finals. It was the Knicks v. Pacers and the Lakers v. Blazers. (I remember a friend and I were joking that the League wanted NY v. LA but they were going to get the Used Car finals.) Of course, the Lakers stole game 7 and went to the finals, and then in one of the even-numbered games, I'm pretty sure it was game 4, Shaq fouled out and Kobe just took over the game. At that point, he started winning me over and I considered myself a fan. (Even though I did crack up when the Lakers played the Knicks late in the season and Chris Childs stole on Kobe. Even funnier was Butterscotch's reaction. She was like, "He's a HATER!" I fell out.) At that point, and with every ridiculous basket, with every head-slapping assist, with every make-you-stand-up-and-do-a-dance dunk on somebody's head, I started to think that Phil Jackson might've gotten Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen rolled into one. Ability-wise, I think Kobe still has that potential, only in the key element of the ability to make his teammates better, he's more Pippen than Jordan. (And with this case and assorted other off-court distractions, he's Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman rolled into one.)