Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Corn Becomes Bill Simmons In Conjunction With Kobe Day

Yes, I like alliteration. But seriously, I normally write shorter posts because, well, when I write longer, I tend to ramble. I never fashion myself as a writer, journalist, blogger or anything else. I am a dude with opinions (DAMN STRONG OPINIONS) about basketball and this helps me to share them.

So, I am taking my own contribution to Kobe day in a totally different direction (not that the others mercenaries we enlisted aren't doing their own original prose as well). I was inspired for my Kobe piece when I read the Sports Guy's amusing "What If" article yesterday. I mean, since Bill gave us a big shout out a week ago, we might as well toss some readers back his way, right? He scratches our back, we scratch his. Yuck!

To be fair, I have never really LOVED Kobe. I have really hated him at some times, but I have never really loved him. However, the closest I ever came to loving Kobe was in the Spring of 1996, when Kobe taught me to grow up, be a man and that life goes on. You think people have a sublime embellishment/eternal damnation problem with Kobe, think about how most fans feel about Duke Basketball. Yes, they are the love of my life. And Kobe almost became a part of that family. Yes, in case you forgot, IF Kobe had chosen college over the NBA (even for a Melo-like 1 year fantasy), he would have been a Blue Devil. I know it. He knows it. The most hated man in the game, playing for the most hated program in the game (at least on a college level). I would have way more orgasms watching that than I did as a high school freshman. (note: I have always been a stud with the ladies... quit laughing). So, back to topic, my Kobe love for the day will take us on a stroll through the Simmons-esque "What If" Kobe had wore that beautiful Duke Blue.

(note: although I would love to sit here and regal you with tales about how Kobe would have single handedly turned around the then hurting Duke program and became the universal symbol of Duke loathing and malice, I would rather stick with the NBA implications, since that is HP's forte.)

Flashback to the 1996 Draft. We all know what happened. Jerry West swindles the Hornets into taking Kobe 13th, then trading him for Vlade Divac -- thus resulting in the cap room necessary to sign Shaq and take over the world.

Now, Flashback to the 1997 Draft. Could you imagine a greater draft debate than this: Duncan vs. Kobe. The Spurs, now the NBA's most pristine franchise would have had a whopper of a debate that would have made Oden/Durant seem like choosing between chicken or chicken. Duncan, the 4 year guy, the leader, the all around fundamentally perfect player. Or, the kid who probably would have led the ACC in scoring, single handedly carried a weak Duke team deep into the tournament and whose offensive arsenal was wayyyy beyond compare. The realization of Duncan vs. the promise of Kobe. It would have made the collective blogosphere's head explode. You know, had their been a blogosphere in those days.

Seriously, these implications are ridiculous. No way Keith Freakin' Van Horn is even in the discussion at #2 that year. Its Timmy and Kobe. Or else. Let's look at it from both sides and see what could have happened.

Scenario #1: Spurs take Duncan, Philly takes Kobe
Yeah, that's right. Things go as they typically do in the League -- always draft a franchise center before a franchise scorer. So, Duncan ends up right where he is. Kobe, however, ends up playing with Allen Iverson. In his hometown. With all the love in the world. Can you even begin imagine seeing those two offensive juggernauts, both under 21 at the time, trying to make it work in a league that hates youngsters. The same Iverson that needs the ball in his hands at all times. The same Kobe that needs the ball in his hands at all times. Kobe having to face Jordan on a regular basis. Kobe in a market that fawns over him, but doesn't toughen him up like the L.A. press did. AI probably having to subvert his role as dominant scorer as Kobe rose to prominence. Someday, somehow having Larry Brown come in and manage both of these monstrous egos, instead of Iverson and a barely there Chris Webber (which he had in the latter part of his tenure). Does Kobe ever get that surreal killer instinct playing close to home, with his support system all around him? Does he end up eating Iverson's head because they spend more effort trying to outscore each other every game than actually helping their team win? Do Shaq stay in Orlando for his second contract and turn the East into a fiery hell of competition, one that makes even Jordan flinch and not get all 6 rings? Does Kobe become the global icon he now is playing in a conference behind his Airness, in a market like Philly? Do he and Iverson totally ruin the Spurs "dynasty" in 1999 by Kobe sticking it to Duncan for being picked first, while AI and Kobe find their defensive fire battling each other in practice every day? Do we ever get to talk to much
about practice?

Scenario #2: Spurs take Kobe, Philly takes Duncan:
Probably one of the most inconceivable twists in NBA history. The Spurs, with a franchise built on the conservative, righteous shoulders of David Robinson decide that they dont need "another" non-descript big guy to take up touches from the Admiral. They need an out-and-out scorer who can open up the lane, handle the ball a lot and take the game winners. The Spurs, never the biggest cash cow in the league, suddenly become extremely marketable and increase their fan base to massive proportions. The steady tutelage of Robinson helps Kobe become a more centered, team oriented player. He learns his lessons from the firebrand Popovich, rather than the solipsistic Jackson. Does Kobe's awesomeness dry up the entire River Walk as the Spurs win 4 titles in a row from 99-03, effectively establishing a national crisis of water shortage in South Texas? Do we ever get to know the Mamba?

Now, look at the other side of the coin. Not only did Philly get the top pick in 1996 and have the chance to take Iverson. Now, they get to pair him with a poised, sound center, instead of a lineup filled with this crap. You already have the perfect storm in Philly. A lightning fast lead guard who can get to the goal at will and score in a variety of ways. Match him up with a brilliant offensive force in the post, who can also play terrific defense and throw great outlet passes that starts the one man fast break. Tim is a calming influence on Iverson, who doesn't then feel that he has to take on the world. They both come to love and respect each other's tendencies and they realize they can build a winner around them. They don't quabble about money and they keep Billy King in a job, masking his incompetence from even the keenest eye. Say they finish a couple spots lower/higher (depending on your assessment) in the 1998 draft and get Paul Freakin' Pierce. Who else is going to win the East after Jordan retires with a core team consisting of Iverson, Pierce, Duncan and bunch of stuffed animals? This is a legitimate question. Oh, and btw, where does Kobe go if he doesn't get along with Robinson, the Spurs aren't winning and the people in his ear want him to get more marketable and be the face of a franchise? In 2000, the team with the most money in free agency would have been -- Orlando, who probably would have kept this little guy you might have heard of before, Shaq.

So, that was just a portion of all the thoughts running through my head today, on this most gloriest of days. I am almost 100% sure than none of my scenarios would have happened the way I imagine them. But you know what, my hindsight is about 60/30, so who cares. I do not claim to be an expert, except for when I am completely right! (i.e. not this case). I just wanted a post to talk about some of the good aspects of Kobe (even though I refrained from talking about how AWESOME Duke would have been had he gone there) and think about how much different the NBA would have been if only the pull of Coach K had been a bit stronger. Of course, Kobe might have chosen to go to UNC, which would have effectively ruined his career (ha ha), kept Dean Smith around longer and pushed Vince Carter to go to Duke -- thus giving Matt even more reason to hate me.

As is, we are all pretty lucky here in the blogosphere. We get to have this great day, talk about one of the best basketball players in the world, share our own biases and give the internets a little look inside our crazy, sports-infested mindsets. Thanks to all our blog friend who have given praise to the elbow jumper shooting, fadeaway in your eye popping, baseline dunking, cold blooded emperor of L.A. and the NBA. After all, we couldn't do it without Kobe, who is all things to all people. He is also the MVP. Boo-ya!

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