It starts with the city they represent. Beautiful Hollywood is a community unlike any other in the U.S. It is common to see a famous celebrity at Starbucks or a street-side cafe, more than likely an actor or actress. Los Angeles is used to actors.
It continues with the Coach. Phil Jackson is to NBA basketball as Robert DeNiro or Jack Nicholson is to Hollywood. The Zen Master is known as much for his off-the-court persona as his on-court management. This aura of knowledge seemingly transcends the day-to-day coaching responsibilities required for a championship team to succeed.
But who are we to question this 11-time champ of a coach? He obviously knows his basketball, as evidenced by Michael Jordan’s six titles and an unstoppable Shaquille O’Neal’s three titles followed by a couple ‘ships earned during Boston’s injury-riddled playoff disappointments. Or does he know his basketball, like, say, Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle? How well would a Carlisle-led squad fare with a Jordan or Shaq? Jackson may not be an actor, but he would make a great one.
It seeps its way onto the court in the form of Kobe Bryant. The Black Mamba, for all his greatness, is not as advertised. There have been arguments and debates as to whether he is the best-ever, better than his idol Jordan. While he may be one of the most electric and high-scoring players of all-time, his game is not on par with his Airness. Can you imagine MJ from ’96 on this Lakers’ squad?
But this is no surprise. If we know anything about Hollywood, it is that the sequel is never as good as the original—no matter what Bryant’s scowl may suggest. Kobe may not be an actor, but he would make a great one.
And then it penetrates the entire team like a poorly-timed flu virus. Pau Gasol tries so hard to be “aggressive” that he commits a horrible foul on an inbounds play with twenty seconds left, allowing Dirk Nowitzki to head to the line to sink the go-ahead free-throws in Game 1. Ron Artest, the newly-christened changed-man, trying his darndest to live up to the label, clothes-lining sparkplug J.J. Barea in the face in the waning seconds of Game 2—practically begging to be suspended for the biggest game of the season on Friday. Lamar Odom, Mr. Lamar Odom, we’ll leave it at that.
Is it any wonder why Andrew Bynum doesn’t trust his teammates?
Yes, the Lakers are guilty of association—association with all of our fine actors and actresses. The Los Angeles Lakers have fallen victim to the biggest threat in any champions’ plans for a repeat, or three-peat: being fat and happy.
Of course, in Hollywood, that’s not hard to fake.