CLIMBING MOUNT KOBE: Matt Welch links to Eric Neel's latest, and I have to quibble with this:
And as for Kobe, like Jordan and Tiger and DiMaggio and a handful of others, put him in that class of single-minded athlete performers who are utterly captivating and, it seems, almost totally unknowable.
I still say the jury is out on Kobe as a performer until he can carry a Shaq-free team. As for his persona, he is, at heart, an arrogant ass convinced of his own ability and in that sense is completely knowable. Sometimes he tries to do the Jordan trick of always doing the thing that wins the game on the court and then always saying the safe thing to the press afterwards --but he's not that good at it, and much more at ease when he's trying to show up other players or being a wiseass. So --in my opinion-- the youthful Kobe is trying to emulate his idol, Jordan, and succeeding on the court but failing off the court because he's not bland in that Jordan/Tiger way. Those Sprite commercials are still shitting, but at least Kobe's showing some personality in them, unlike all those Jordan Hanes ads and that creepy Buick ad where Tiger starts cackling in the end. Never was laughter so forced.
Anyway, the Viper picks up on something kind of like this today:
The no-zone rule was changed in no small measure to try to neuter O'Neal, but he's still the most dangerous dude (27.2 ppg, 57-pct. FG, 10.7 rpg) in the dungeon. When his tootsies aren't tender, The Big Aris-toe-tle simply distorts the game, whereas Bryant is Tracy McGrady with two rings and a superiority complex to match.
And has this to say about MVP Tim Duncan:
Using "where would his team be without him?" as the principal principle before stuffing the ballot box, you can understand why the Spurs' habit-forming savior is going to get a personal visit from David Stern along with the hardware and a handshake. Despite firing 21 blanks Sunday, including his first ten (yes, I told you before, I'm aware playoff stats don't count), his presence and absence (see Game 4 vs. Seattle) proves he's the most indispensable player in the association. Without The Big Fundamental, San Antonio wouldn't qualify for the Eastern Conference playoffs.
For Whatever It's Worth: I voted for Duncan. He's too good to be true. It's impossible to say anything bad about him, which greatly concerns me. Imagine if his actions and attitude create a wave of incoming NBA players with equivalent character, unmitigated team orientation and general genius for the game.
I strongly advise youngsters not to follow Duncan's example. Do not, I repeat, do not try to act like him at home or on the court. Otherwise, I'm out of business.
So I hope this means Tim will be inspired tonight, though Shaq may be inspired too in that negative way that Shaq gets inspired: when people aren't paying enough attention to him. They were claiming on TNT last night that the Lakers are beatable this year --and they looked very beatable in that first game against the Spurs-- but nobody's beat them yet. Hopefully San Antonio isn't too intimidated by that loss and comes back and makes a series of it.
2 hours ago