How LeBron James Fits Within the Lakers Cosmos

Lakers fans are unsurprisingly split on their feelings regarding the team’s decision to sign the best player in the NBA. Here’s why every Lakers fan should be excited

I was born in 1984. The same year that Magic Johnson lost his first meeting with Larry Bird and the hated Boston Celtics, teaching a whole new generation of Lakers fans to hate the color green and Lucky Charms cereal. As a Lakers fan, I grew up watching a team with no stars. The year was 1993, two years after saying good-bye to Magic Johnson who retired in 1991, and the Lakers would draft Nick Van Exel with the 37th selection in the NBA draft. The team would later select Eddie Jones in the 1994 draft, complete a trade for Cedric Ceballos, and make the playoffs with one of the younger cores in the league at the time. It would take one more season before the Lakers signed superstar center Shaquille O’Neal to pair with the young but talented roster already in place, and trade for another young talent from the 1996 draft class in Kobe Bryant.

As a Lakers fan, I would go on to enjoy three straight NBA championships, and be reminded that this is what the Lakers did. They would draft well, they would make all of the right moves (GM Jerry West also traded away a few assets to clear up cap space and ensure O’Neal could be signed), and they won championships. Going back to the days of Magic Johnson, the trades for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and the addition of James Worthy proved this was evident. Going back even further to the days of Jerry West, the trade for Wilt Chamberlain proved this was evident. Fans of other teams often mock Lakers fans for bringing up their team’s history, but when your history continues to repeat itself, it’s hard not to keep bringing it up to the uneducated masses.

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8 and 24: The Best of Both Worlds – Greatest Game (Part 5 of 5)

Which of Kobe Bryant’s games were truly his greatest? What exactly makes a game “great”, anyway? I answer both questions, and more, in my epic 5 part finale.

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This is the finale of my 5 part series, covering Kobe’s greatest games. If you missed any of the first 4 parts, click the Kobe tag (or right here) to catch up!

#8

When people think of Kobe wearing his #8 jersey, they think of either one of two Kobe’s: Kobe with the afro, playing together with Shaq winning championships, or Kobe with the tattoo, jacking up shots because he had no one else to pass to. And both versions of Kobe have equally great games that we all remember.

Afro Kobe’s finest moment was undoubtedly Continue reading “8 and 24: The Best of Both Worlds – Greatest Game (Part 5 of 5)”

8 and 24: The Best of Both Worlds – Worst Moment (Part 3 of 5)

What? I love Kobe as much as the next Laker fan, but let’s be honest, Kobe pissed us all off at least once. This category’s goal is to remind us of what we have chosen to forget from each jersey.

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This is part 3 of my 5 part series, covering Kobe’s worst moment in each jersey. If you missed Part 1 or 2, click the Kobe tag (or right here) to catch up!

#8

When people have a bone to pick regarding Kobe, it’s always about how selfish he was. In his #8 jersey, Kobe’s worst games were not when he was shooting 30 times a game. They were, oddly enough, when he chose to pass the ball instead. In 2003-04, Kobe had games during the season where Phil Jackson criticized him for ignoring his team and shooting at a higher than normal clip. He infamously responded by ignoring his team and not shooting for a whole half of basketball in a late season matchup against the Sacramento Kings. His lack of aggressiveness in this critical regular season game, which the Lakers lost in blowout fashion, nearly cost his team the Pacific division championship.

In 2005-06, he single-handedly dragged the Lakers to the 7th seed of the playoffs and to the brink of victory against the 2nd seeded Phoenix Suns with a 3-1 series lead. After dropping the next two games, Kobe “quit” on his team in Game 7, taking only 3 shots in the 2nd half. Again, by choosing to be passive and not the player that averaged over 35 PPG during the season, the Lakers exited the first round of the playoffs with a whimper, having been pummeled by 31.

Having said that, all of this is trumped by him snitching on Shaq in 2003.

Were we all just going to sit here and pretend that didn’t happen?

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8 and 24: The Best of Both Worlds – Greatest Buzzer Beater (Part 2 of 5)

Probably most important when discussing Kobe Bryant was his ability to snatch a victory away from the opponent. And it’s what made him unique from any other player in his era.

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This is part 2 of my 5 part series, covering Kobe’s greatest buzzer beater in each jersey. If you missed Part 1: Greatest Dunk last week, click here to read it. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @cleanupglass, so I can update you on my next post, and give you my quick takes throughout the NBA season.

#8

Kobe has accumulated a library of buzzer beaters, game winners, and lead changing shots over the course of his career. Even early in his career, wearing #8, it seems like when the lights were brightest, Kobe shined brighter. Ask the Suns, when Kobe hit the Game 2 game winner over Jason Kidd, to put the Lakers up 2-0 in the 2000 Western Conference Semi-finals. Or, even better, you could ask the Blazers, when Kobe hit not one, but two ridiculous 3-pointers to give the Lakers a regular season win, and the 2004 Pacific Division Championship. Two shots in one regular season game, what could be more clutch than that?

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8 and 24: The Best of Both Worlds – Greatest Dunk (Part 1 of 5)

Two retired jerseys for one player? It happened. Now that we’ve all come to terms with that, here is the first moment of five that defines the player in each number.

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Kobe Bryant has not one, but two jerseys hanging from the rafters in Staples Center. By now, it’s too late for anyone to debate which jersey should be hanging if given the choice. And it’s even too late to debate which version of Kobe was best. You’ve read all of the stats, and they’re all very comparable: 16,866 points to 16,178, eight All-Stars to nine, three championships to two, zero MVP’s to one, zero Finals MVP’s to two… are you still there? I agree, it’s so boring. And the conclusion is always the same: #24 trumps #8. Yawn…

Allow me to unveil my arguments for 8 AND 24. As I stated earlier, there’s no point in arguing which number he was best in, as both jerseys proudly hang high in the stands (that is, until the Clippers play a home game. And since they can’t hide the shame they feel for their futility as a franchise, they’ll hide the Lakers successes). No matter what I say, nobody is going to climb back up there to take a jersey down because I happen to be right again. What my argument will decide is what should (not do, should) we remember most when we look up at those retired jerseys. From his Greatest Regular Season, to his Greatest Dunk, and even his Worst Moment, I guarantee nobody has a breakdown like this one.

Before I begin, I’d like to note that all stats in each part of this series were found, as always, at www.basketball-reference.com, unless sited otherwise.

Now, to begin the epic five part series (one for each ring), I present to you, my argument for:

Greatest Dunk

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D’Angelo vs. Lonzo: Past vs. Present

D’Angelo vs. Lonzo was what everyone wanted to see. A quick look at the stats and the conclusion is D’Angelo Russell got the better of his replacement in Lonzo Ball. Not so fast…

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The date is October 31st, 2017. The Lakers have just defeated the Detroit Pistons 113-93. Lonzo Ball finishes with a stat line of 13 points, 3 assists, and 6 rebounds, hardly Rookie of the Year award worthy stats for the 2nd pick in the 2017 NBA draft. But Lonzo is all that anyone is talking about right now, so NBA TV elects to interview him after the game. Chris Webber asks the first question, where Lonzo is asked to elaborate on how great it is to have fulfilled his dream of playing basketball in the NBA. Isiah Thomas asks the next question, and while I’m paraphrasing the interview, Zeke acknowledges that many players in the league are so focused on their stats. Lonzo appears very comfortable not filling up the box score, so long as his team wins the game. Lonzo agrees, stating his father told him as a point guard, all that matters are wins and losses.

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Culture Change in Los Angeles

Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka have already laid the foundation for a change in the Los Angeles Lakers culture. Need proof? Look no further than additions of Brook Lopez and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

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Last year, the Los Angeles Lakers met at home against the Washington Wizards. D’Angelo Russell was the leading scorer with 28 points on 10-21 shooting to go along with 6 rebounds and 9 assists. This is obviously a much better outing than what Lonzo Ball produced (6 points 2-11 shooting, 8 rebounds, 10 assists); however, a wise old man once asked me, “… But did they win?”

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