Tex Winter, the Triangle and Kobe Bryant ‘The Closer’

An interesting thing happens with 1:10 to go in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA finals. The score is Lakers 76, Celtics 73. Kobe Bryant has the ball with Ray Allen defending him. He dribbles to his right, sees the second defender coming to his left, elevates and passes the ball to Ron Artest who steps into a rhythm three-point shot, makes it and extends the Lakers’ lead to six.

The Staples center crowd erupts. The Celtics, those on the floor and on the bench, can’t believe what they just witnessed. Bryant with the unlikeliest of assists enables Artest to have what is likely to be the best moment of his basketball life.

This made possible in part by Tex Winter’s influence on Bryant.

We all know Winter as having pioneered the use of the triangle offense in the NBA. He’s Phil Jackson’s longtime mentor, was his assistant coach through each of the Chicago Bulls’ three-peat championship runs and the Lakers first three-peat in 2000-02. Before suffering a stroke in April of 2009, he’d been a consultant for the Lakers.  

According to the Chicago Tribune, Winter will finally enter the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame after several years of making an appearance on the ballot. The announcement will come moments before the NCAA Men’s Basketball championship game Monday night in Houston. The induction is followed by Winter’s induction into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in February of 2010 and the recognition given to him by the NBA Coaches Association awarding him the Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award in June 2010. Both perhaps paving the way to Winter’s induction this summer.

It’s a recognition that according to Bryant and Jackson is long overdue.

“It’s about time. It’s about time. It’s very well deserved,” Bryant said. “I’m beyond happy for him. It’s exciting, a little past due, but better late than never.”

Having been a head coach for only two seasons, and not a particularly successful one at that, coupled with his career as only being an assistant coach in the NBA prevented Winter from being inducted sooner. Jackson alluded to the fact that the selection committee should’ve inducted Winter a long time ago when his health wasn’t so much an issue and he was able to accept the award when he was “still serving basketball at such a great capacity.”

At the time of its re-implementation into the NBA, the triangle had previously been used by Winter in Houston during the 1972-74 seasons, it was vastly different than the prevalent NBA offensive style at the time, which reinforced a self-centered approach to the game. The triangle, if ran correctly, should empower everyone and put the individual needs second to those of the group. Its basic principles teach selflessness.

Next: How the triangle has affected Bryant in his role as ‘The Closer’

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