The dominance of the NBA’s Western Conference in recent years has been near resolute. Eleven of the last fifteen championships have been won by a Western Conference team. Of them there have been only four teams who have claimed the coveted title spot, of those, four belong to the Spurs and Lakers have five of those eleven.
I love westerns. The tale of a lone gunman standing admits a vast wilderness, facing countless and capable dangers with every step. So allow me to tell you the classic story of how the West was won. Like the story goes it begins with a lone man, one who captained the strongest Western team in NBA history; Kobe.
As of this moment Kobe is done. Not just his season, but his career. For most of us we watched as he destroyed teams and ruined the hopes with a tenacity which could not be but compared to Michael Jordan himself. It is safe to say, as most did in the stories, we hated the lone gunman who carried with him a ruthlessly independent nature. We hated him because we weren’t him. We hated him because with ease he seemed to dash hopes and crush opponents all the while smugly smiling. We hated him because if we weren’t Lakers fans, we knew victory was always in his favor.
The infamous three-peat of 2000-2002 was done behind the combined effort of Kobe and Shaq, a gunman and his steed, if you will. But like most stories go a challenge meets the protagonist which claim those closest to him and force him for a time to wander aimlessly through the desert looking for a new identity. And like only the greatest can attest, he found it. Repeating again this time without a simple and significant companion but a posy, which without him would simply be just another gang.
So what is his legacy? What follows the life of a man of such significant influence? What is the consequences of the gunman and his actions? Just look at the list. Nine out of the eleven of the last fifteen years. A dominance of the league inspired by arguably the greatest competitor. Like Jordan, Kobe changed the game, he changed his conference, he changed his division. His greatness forced other teams to match it or die. His competitive spirit and tenacity created the standard for success. You either match it or lose.
Kobe will be remembered for his championships, his dunks, his clutch game ending, game winning shots. But his legacy for now is a Western conference which had claimed the title of the toughest conference in the toughest league in the world.
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