The Los Angeles Lakers were humiliated on Sunday.
They were humiliated during the entire four game sweep they were subjected to in the second round of the NBA Playoffs. Both Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom were ejected for failing to stay classy within 45 seconds of one another, while Kobe Bryant put up a paltry 17 points.
Reread that last part: Bryant put up 17 points in the deciding game of a playoff series.
He took only seven shots inside of five feet in the series, making two of them en route to his fewest shot attempts and makes from that range in a series during the last four years. The reality is that the Lakers looked like chumps against the Dallas Mavericks in Phil Jackson's farewell ride, and the blame needs to be placed squarely on Kobe.
Kobe's final game of the season (not career, mind you) had a stat line that reads 17 points in 38 minutes. Michael Jordan's final game of his career featured 45 points and a vintage game winner over the Utah Jazz to claim his sixth NBA ring. Jordan took over and ensured that the Bulls would win that game, while all Kobe could do was sit back and watch his team implode.
Since Kobe has entered the league, there have been countless pundits looking to crown him as the next Jordan.
His five rings and generally stellar play have put him close, but not close enough. Jordan never would have let his Bulls lose that much focus and end up down three games. Nor would he have put up only 17 points in a deciding game where the margin of victory was 36 points.
This was supposed to be the fond farewell to Phil.
Kobe gets his sixth ring, Phil retires with an unprecedented twelfth ring, and Kobe is finally worthy of being compared to Jordan. The only problem is that when Kobe faced his toughest test, he failed. Miserably. The test gets even harder next year.
This was probably Kobe's last great chance at the sixth ring, and he blew it.
Phil is gone, there's no questioning that. Pau Gasol is a shell of himself, and both Bynum and Odom will start next season on the bench. The obvious choice is to get Dwight Howard, but he won't be available until 2012, and that's assuming he even wants to be part of the rapidly disintegrating Lakers dynasty.
Kobe is 32 years old, and is clearly feeling the pains of all his playing time, which means he's really only got one or two more years of elite play left in him.
Kobe is, and will go down as, one of the most highly regarded players of the game. For the sake of everyone, though, the Jordan comparisons should stop immediately.
Kobe's desire to win doesn't match Jordan's. The Black Mamba may have some bite left, but he doesn't have the seething ferocity that His Airness showed when holding court.
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