Bill on Kobe vs. Shaq:
In the book, I blamed Kobe Bryant for 2004′s breakup with Shaquille O’Neal and wrote that Shaq was a great guy. Last summer, Shaq left his fourth team on bad terms, and we heard rumors that he stole a reality-show idea from then-teammate Steve Nash. This happened right after Kobe won a non-Shaq title as the leader of the 2009 Lakers and even had a couple of successful interactions with teammates. Was Kobe less to blame than we thought? Why was Shaq on the wrong side of so many playoff sweeps and chemistry-gone-wrong situations? Could he have thrived in the Finals without a dominant sidekick like Kobe or Dwyane Wade?
Bill on Kobe:
A big theme of my book is The Secret of winning basketball, something Isiah Thomas explains to me at a topless pool in Las Vegas. (The Secret, in a nutshell: Teams only win titles when their best players forget about statistics, sublimate their own games for the greater good and put their egos on hold.) Another big theme of my book: Kobe Bryant’s inability to grasp The Secret. He wanted to win a title, but only on his terms. That’s what made him the most fascinating player of his generation. In the book, I even spend three pages comparing him to the wolf in Teen Wolf.
Fast-forward to a few weeks ago: A reporter asks Kobe if he still has room to grow as a player. Kobe responds, “I do, I do. I think there’s so much more to understand. A lot of it just has to do with winning. When you first come into the league, you’re trying to prove yourself as an individual, do things to assert yourself and establish yourself. But once you’ve done that, there’s another level to the game that’s more complex than figuring out how to put up big numbers as an individual.” (That’s right, The Secret! He finally gets it! Man, I wish this were in my book.)
Bill on the ’09-10 Lakers:
That reminds me, in the “Greatest Teams” chapter, I wrote that no modern team could crack the top-10 all-time because of the restrictions of today’s salary cap and luxury tax. I was wrong. The 2009-10 Lakers are going to be historically great. Nobody is going to touch them this season. I have already made room in the paperback for them. This is not a reverse jinx. As far as you know.