We just returned from a family gathering. What do Jews do on Christmas? We gather together and do our own little thing. It was a nice affair, nice to see my children play with their cousins and just nice to hang out and not worry about going back to work.
We took two separate cars over so that I could watch the Laker game today. It was the first time Shaq and Kobe played against each other since Shaq was traded and it was a big deal to me. Actually a much bigger deal than I would have guessed.
It may seem goofy, it probably seems strange, but I cannot help but really like Shaq. He is the player I always wanted to be, larger than life, powerful and incredibly agile. Many people wanted to be Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson and I can say that I would have been happy to have been either of them. But I would not be honest if I didn’t say that Shaq is my number one guy.
I haven’t anything close to his talent, not even in the same ballpark. He weighs more than 100 pounds more than I do and is almost two feet taller than I am. Aside from those few items and my being a 35 year-old white Jewish man we are incredibly similar. I am a rebounding fool, I have a voracious appetite for them and the men I play with would easily admit that I play a power game.
So it is easy to look at him and say that he is the player I would want to be. I accepted him with all of his flaws, poor free throw shooting, overly sensitive and his lack of willingness to come to training camp in shape. I accepted it because he is a major part of the three championships we won during the Phil Jackson era. When the playoffs came he always elevated his game and he seemed to be a mensch. I just liked him.
For a long time I liked Kobe. He appeared to be the consummate professional. He worked hard on his game, did not settle for anything less than the best. He was and is a clutch player. You want him to get the ball with the game on the line.
I could understand and appreciate his battle with Shaq to be the alpha male on the team. Part of me thought that it could be a good motivational tool, but I have come to believe that I was wrong.
The Lakers traded the wrong guy. They traded the heart, the motor that made the team run, the keystone and now we are stuck. We are stuck with a prima donna who is among the top 5 players in the world. A player who is the enfant terrible.
And it makes me a little sad. It makes me sad because I see so much wasted potential. The two of them could have and should have put their egos aside. They blew a historic opportunity and they likely will not realize just how big it was until they have retired. And to me, a guy who dreams of being able to play the way that they do it just sucks.
Today I watched the Lakers for the first time all season. I cannot remember the last time I intentionally missed games when I had time to watch them. I am angry with the Lakers, they should have banished Kobe before they got rid of Shaq.
In the end neither of these guys are going to lose any sleep worrying about whether old Jack is happy or not, but it would be nice if they would. End of my rant on this topic.