In ancient times, 1991, a great leader and teacher, Phil Jackson, observed that the nature of his team, the Chicago Bulls, was similar to a pack of wolves. Before Chicago engaged the rival clan, the New York Knicks, in playoff battle, it was Jackson’s task to band his team together and bring them to self awareness. Jax borrowed from Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book 2 and gave to each player, at the top of their Knicks scouting report, the following quote…
Now this is the Law of the Jungle – as old and as true as the sky;
And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf that shall break it must die.
As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk, the Law runneth forward and back-
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.
That pack went on to create NBA legend, cruising through the playoffs, winning the 1991 NBA finals, three-peating twice.
Lately our own alpha wolf’s been up on a hill howling, alone. He misses a different chapter of NBA lore, one created by his own pack, the days of the Monster and the Killer. A 330 pound monster controlled the lane, and Kobe ran free, wreaking havoc. That pack was stocked with lean, savvy veterans. Surrounded by Rick Fox, Robert Horry and Derek Fisher, Kobe grew up safe. Even Horace Grant was there, to help bring legend back into reality. Kobe was the golden child, the adored one, the young killer. He was free then to sharpen his new teeth, humiliate opponents, and be showered by an annual parade of adoration. In that safe environment, Kobe grew into a fearsome, respected opponent who constantly challenged even the Monster’s alpha status. And back in those days, the pack was full of experience and mature with only a couple young pups running around, like Devean George. Remember?
In these last years that’s all been gone. After the big split, the Lakers clan was reformed as a young pack of cubs. Only Kobe and Devean remained from that successful society. Soon even Devean was gone. And so was the Lakers’ dominance.
Kobe spent last summer up on lonely hill, howling. He’s missing the glory, his youth, the clan. He wants to go back. In his fantasy he’s even jumping back through time, right into the old legends, mythological Chicago. Kobe’s grown dissatisfied with his lot and with his days. He misses dominance, and he can’t stand not being great. That, we understand.
But, lately, winds of Laker change have come. Derek Fisher’s back, bringing with him a long memory of the old ways. And he is someone to help lead this new, young pack. The roles of leader and killer are so different. It is the difference between acting and directing. When one directs, their acting often suffers. It diverts some of the vital energy. It’s better then for them to take on a supporting, rather than a main role. Think of it as old energy vs. young. It takes mature energy to lead, but young, quick, vital energy to attack. Jordan led only by example in the old days, not by nurturing. Kobe is much the same.
Fisher, on the other hand, is perfect for a leadership role. For 30 minutes he plays hardnosed ball and leads a team of young wolves. He is a wise, gentle, but firm mentor. He carries with him a fierce, protective energy. He knows all about putting the clan first. And with that same protective energy he leads on D. Did you see what he did to Steve Nash the other night? He ripped him and held him down to 5 turnovers and only 3 assists, crippling the Suns offense. He shot over him. He asserted a tradition, the old knowledge he carries with him. “I am a member of the three ring clan. You shall not pass.”
Kobe, meanwhile is free again. To run. To hunt. To unleash his own, unparalleled fury. Someone else is there to gather the pack. And some of the young cubs have been growing some serious teeth too. Jordan Farmar looks quick and hungry. Ronny Turiaf has grown into a scrappy starter, howling with energy. Mihm and Odom have nursed their wounds and returned strong. And who is that new 10 point 10 rebound bench giant? Listen to the sudden hush that has come over the Andrew Bynum doubters, as it comes clear. There is a new Monster growing in the middle.
What was that sound we heard last week? The mighty being torn? We heard it in previously dreaded and feared Phoenix. We heard it in Staples against mighty Utah.
Yep. The winds have changed. And Kobe’s come right down from lonely mountain, back to the only society of mighty wolves he’s ever known. Chicago? Are you kiddin’ me? I don’t think so. Because the pack is back, baby. The pack is back.