A day after the Lakers were swept by Dallas in the Western Conference semis, a great number of Laker “fans” are calling for Pau Gasol’s head. The same Pau Gasol who proved the missing piece after Shaq left, the Robin to Kobe’s Batman, the guy who helped lead the team to the NBA Finals for three straight years, winning it all the last two. The mild mannered Spaniard couldn’t duplicate his performance this year, so he quickly fell out of favor with the so-called faithful. I know these fair weather fans won’t listen, but the fact is that no one, including my favorite most admired sports star on the planet, Kobe Bryant, played as well this year as in previous seasons.
Angry fans want someone to blame, but the simple fact is the Lakers are a tired team. Over the past few years, they’ve played so many more games than most teams via the playoffs that it amounts to nearly an extra season. At 32 years of age, Kobe has a lot of miles on his knees. And while it’s obvious he still has the burning desire to win, his body just can’t do the things it once could. As a result, he isn’t able to go out and score 60 points on any given night, single-handedly willing his team to win. Mind over matter, you say? Ah, if wishes were dreams.
Nothing lasts forever. We Laker fans were treated to a great run over the past three years. There are millions of basketball fans who’ve never seen their team make it to the Finals let alone bring home the trophy. Of the 30 teams currently in the NBA, fourteen have never won a title. The Lakers, meanwhile, have 16 Championship banners hanging in the rafters at Staples Center.
That’s not to say there isn’t room for 16 more. The Laker franchise knows how to win and it will win again. We will catch Boston, and Kobe will tie or surpass Michael. Meanwhile, let’s take time out to say thanks to our guys rather than request their public flogging.
Thank you and good night.