It is time to throw away the American inferiority complex with its place in the sport, where many blindly claim that technique should come above all in choosing and developing the best prospects and that the U.S. is not an international power because it cares too much about athleticism.
Kobe and Shaq: Revisiting the 2004 NBA Finals
The year is 2004 and the New England Patriots are Super Bowl champions (no shock there), a rookie LeBron James is about to finish his debut season and Kevin Garnett is the NBA MVP. Usher is the biggest artist in the country with the top 2 songs in the Billboard 100, Toby Maguire is still running around in the Spiderman costume and Shrek 2 is the biggest movie in the world. The international basketball world is about to slip into chaos with the heavily favored U.S. team losing in the semifinals of the summer Olympics. But a few months before that, in the June of 2004, something even more consequential was about to happen. A Laker team that featured 4 future hall-of-famers was about to lose to a Detroit team without any stars and one of the greatest duos in NBA history was about to split up.
As we've detailed in the past, not only did the Pistons take down the three time champions, they did so in just 5 games winning all but one game by at least double digits. During this series that were plenty of rumors that swirled around mostly concerning the damaged relationship between all-time greats Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. Which begs the question what happened in those five games?
Shaquille O'Neal upped his performance with 27 points and 11 rebounds a game on 63 percent shooting . . . Kobe on the other hand had 23 points and 4 assists a game on 38 percent shooting. Kobe was not shooting well yet he took more shots than Shaq during the series. Why exactly did this happen?
A Laker player during that series came out and said Kobe was playing for his finals MVP at the expense of the team. "His" meaning despite three rings at the time, Kobe had never been named a finals MVP and the young star desperately wanted the validation that came with the recognition. At the end of the day, the Lakers lost the series and Kobe and Shaq split up which opened the door for debate on how successful the two could have been if they stayed together.
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