Moment #10: A Hollywood story without the feel good ending
What most NBA fans remember about the 2007-2008 Los Angeles Lakers is their humiliating, 39-point defeat at the hands of the hated Celtics in Boston. This was humiliating, but the season as a whole was anything but for Jackson and the Lakers.
The 2007-2008 season could actually be looked at as one of Jackson’s best coaching jobs. The Lakers endured drama, injury and roster changes in order to make a storybook run to the NBA Finals.
The season began with controversy as Jackson’s star player Kobe Bryant had expressed a desire to be traded from the Lakers. Jackson held the team together though as the Lakers didn’t receive an appropriate offer for Bryant.
Cooler heads would prevail and the Lakers surprised the league by contending for the best record in the West, thanks in large part to the emergence of big man Andrew Bynum. The injury soon seemed to derail the Lakers’ title hopes though as Bynum went down with a knee injury.
Once again the stars aligned for Jackson and the Lakers as the team acquired Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies. The rest is history.
The once disgruntled Bryant won his lone MVP and the Lakers steamrolled the competition, even the defending champion Spurs, in the Western Conference playoffs setting up a renewal of the Lakers-Celtics rivalry.
Although the Lakers failed to win the championship, this season laid the foundations for the team to win back-to-back titles. Jackson should get unlimited credit for this as he helped the Lakers persevere through numerous hurdles.
Moment #9: Kobe proves to be clutch…twice
The 2005-2006 season marked the return of Phil Jackson to the Lakers’ bench after a one year sabbatical away from the game. During this season, Kobe and Jackson had to bury their differences, many of which were chronicled in Jackson’s book “The Last Season”, in order to keep a very average Lakers team afloat.
The duo did just that as the Lakers rebounded from missing the playoffs the year before, even with the likes of Smush Parker and Kwame Brown being major pieces to Bryant’s supporting cast. The playoffs would not be easy though as the Lakers were only the 7 seed, meaning they would face the talented Phoenix Suns, led by league MVP Steve Nash.
The underdog Lakers actually took two out of the first three games against the Suns, much in large part to the brilliant play of Bryant and Jackson’s assertion to his star to keep his teammates involved.
The Lakers’ surprising start to the series set the scene for one of the most memorable finishes to a playoff game. In Game 4, down by two the Suns had possession of the ball, many felt that the Suns effort to even the series would be a formality after two Steve Nash free throws.
Then as they say, “amazing happened” as Parker knocked the ball out of the MVP’s hands into Devean George’s. George quickly got the ball to Bryant and the Lakers legend hit a nearly impossible shot to send the game into overtime.
In overtime the Lakers trailed by one with mere seconds remaining in the game, when Luke Walton tied up Nash to force a jump ball. Walton tipped to Bryant and the rest is history as he hit a shot over two Suns to give the Lakers a commanding 3-1 series lead, sending the Staples Center into frenzy.
Unfortunately the Lakers blew the series, but this game still goes down as one of the greatest moments of the Jackson era.
Next: Moments seven and eight of the Jackons era
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