O.C. Register: As if there wasn’t enough history in this colonial city and in this classic Lakers-Celtics rivalry, the opportunity to make more has arrived for Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson.
Somewhat inaccurately defined by their separate determinations to win championships — Bryant portrayed as borderline maniacal in his single-mindedness, Jackson long criticized for playing only with stacked decks — they are here on the cusp of validation again. Bryant can join a short list of modern NBA stars to have four titles: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Duncan. Jackson can break his tie with Red Auerbach and stand alone with 10 NBA coaching championships.
Then again, they could have done those things in 2004, when the Lakers last reached the NBA Finals. The funny thing is Bryant and Jackson aren’t bitter about that defeat because they don’t think they deserved to win that one.
That’s how it is when you are the truest sort of competitor: one who judges success foremost from within.
Lamar Odom sees that in Bryant and Jackson, no matter that one is fire and one is ice.
“Kobe is the ultimate competitor, because he competes against himself,” Odom said. “If he has got 50 points one game, the next game he wants to get 55 or 60. If his back is hurt, he wants to prove that his back isn’t hurt. That rubs off on us.”