It’s been said that you can live your whole life in one manner, stray from it for just a single moment, and be judged by that moment for the rest of your life. History is not a record of lengthy accounts; it’s a record of defining moments. If you think about it, we only read a story if the ending is worthy of enduring the journey it took to get there. Why suffer through the expedition if the destination is never realized?
The Los Angeles Lakers are on the threshold of history – A chance to erase the bitter memories of last years’ NBA Finals. Perfectly interlaced in the Lakers story awaits a surplus of subplots anxiously waiting to be defined.
For Phil Jackson – A chance to separate himself from Red Auerbach in the history books and be remembered as the most successful coach in NBA History.
For Pau Gasol – A chance to shed his growing number of critics and be remembered as the final piece missing in the Lakers Championship puzzle.
For Mitch Kupchak – A chance to step out of the shadow of his mentor Jerry West and stand alone as the sole architect behind a Championship Lakers’ team.
A lot is on the line for the Lakers; and as much as an NBA championship would mean to the city of Los Angeles and the Lakers’ organization, it would mean much more to Kobe Bryant. Nobody has more riding on the outcome of these NBA Finals than he does. What happens over the next several days will write as much about his legacy as anything he has accomplished, or failed to accomplish, leading up to this point.
Number 24 is just four wins away from admonishing his critics without having to say a single word. A ring would silence those who say he can’t win a championship as the best player on his team. Who say he can’t put a team on his back and carry them to the promised land. Who say he doesn’t deserve to be mentioned amongst the greatest players in the history of this game.
A ring would discard the selfish label, and demolish the polarizing lens that the sports world has viewed him under for the last decade. It would be the perfect conclusion to a historic 24-month run; one that would include an MVP Award, a Gold Medal in Beijing, back-to-back NBA Finals appearances, a fourth NBA championship ring and most likely, his first NBA Finals MVP award.
On Thursday, the Los Angeles Lakers will start their battle with the Orlando Magic for the NBA Championship. Along with D-Howard and company, the Lakers will contend with the ghosts of last years’ collapse against the Boston Celtics. They will fight against the pressure of being heavy favorites and owning home-court advantage. And most daunting of all, the Lakers will stare history in the face and have the rare opportunity to alter it forever.
I once heard someone say, “History will speak kindly of me, for I am writing it.” For Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, the page is blank and their pens are ready.
Be sure to grab a good seat; because history is about to be written.
Jason Riley is a columnist for the Lakers Nation. In addition to this column, he writes on an array of topics that you can check out by visiting J-Ri.com. You can email him by clicking here, look him up on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter for in-game coverage.