Thursday, February 7, 2008

Shaq vs. Kobe

I guess it’s been coming since the beginning of the new millennium. But it was 2003 or so that it really seemed like it had to happen. Recently, it seemed like it never would. But after yesterday’s trade, the possibility is greater than ever.

I’m talking, of course, about Shaq vs. Kobe in the playoffs.

The Suns and Lakers, right now, are two of the best teams in the Western Conference. The Lakers trade for Pau Gasol should only make them stronger. As Steve Nash admitted, the jury is still out on the Shaq for Marion trade, but if O’Neal comes out to prove that he has something left in the tank the Suns should be able to hold onto the top spot in the conference. Shaq may not be a great fit, but we’ll leave that debate to the real NBA analysts. Then, all we need is for both teams to win in the first two rounds and we’ve got a Shaq vs. Kobe Western Conference Finals.

We never got to see Batman fight Robin. Starsky and Hutch never went toe-to-toe. The Babe and Lou Gehrig were teammates as long as they were in the league (Ruth’s stint with the Boston Braves not withstanding). Bill and Ted never really went to fisticuffs. Therefore, Shaq vs. Kobe would be as good a clash between former colleagues as we’ve ever seen.

It seems like this has been a long time coming. In the later years of the Lakers dynasty, you could tell how much the two disliked each other. For a while, they wouldn’t admit it. Shaq called their relationship similar to a marriage. However, after the Kobe rape scandal, it exploded. Kobe made comments about Shaq, and when the two played for the first time in the regular season Shaq wouldn’t even make eye contact.

A Suns-Lakers conference finals has to be any sports fans dream. These are two athletes that I don’t think could deal with losing the series. Could you imagine the post game interview with Shaq after he had just lost to Kobe in the Western Conference Finals, or vice versa? Steve Nash, Amare, Pau Gasol etc. would be pretty much irrelevant.

Of course, there is little that the two could do to stop each other from scoring. If Kobe gets to the basket, he may have to watch out for an elbow from the Kazaam star. However, the battle would more be each player just trying to outscore the other. The Suns already aren’t Kobe’s favorite team, especially after the Raja Bell clothesline and the Lakers-Suns series two years ago.

Kobe vs. Shaq. Kobe trying to prove he can win without Shaq, and Shaq trying to break his tie with Duncan and get his fifth ring.

Obviously, a lot has to happen to get there. Shaq has to stay healthy. Both teams have to get to the conference finals. However, the prospect of this clash of superstars has to have even Knicks fans excited about the NBA again.

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