ESPN: You thought every angle had been covered for this incredible, throwback Lakers-Celtics Finals? Well, here’s a new one: For the first time in NBA history, a team (in this case, the Lakers) might win a championship a few years after its coach (Phil Jackson) wrote a first-person book (“The Last Season”) about a season (2003-04) in which he repeatedly skewered his former and current best player (in this case, Kobe Bryant).
Everyone forgets “The Last Season” because the once-dysfunctional Lakers did a fair share of healing since its 2004 release. The book remains an eye-opening first-person account of a particularly arduous Lakers season that ended with a 2004 Finals collapse and, eventually, both Shaquille O’Neal and Jackson leaving the team. It’s also a damning critique of the player and person Kobe used to be before he started sharing the basketball, buying a few team dinners, handing out monogrammed watches and pretending to laugh at Luke Walton’s jokes. We’re sure Selfish Kobe is gone, right? I mean, we’re positive? We’re sure he’s not going to trickle out during the Finals?
Since it’s such a great book and all, in lieu of handing out pre-Finals awards as a preview, I thought we’d hand out actual passages written by Jackson in “The Last Season” (in bold) to the crucial players, themes, story lines and characters in the 2008 Finals. Without further ado …
1. “Last spring, during a particularly acrimonious team meeting, Rick Fox complained to Kobe and Shaq. ‘The thing that hurts about this season,’ Fox said, ‘is that you have both acted like you’re apart from us, and that we’re not any good.’ … Shaq, clearly affected, began to respond when Kobe cut him off. ‘Quit your crying,’ Kobe said. I then jumped in. ‘Kobe, you’re as much to blame as Shaq is, if not more.’ ”