Throughout his 20-year Hall of Famer NBA career, late Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant secured five NBA titles. And while Bryant likely enjoyed winning each of those titles, beating the Orlando Magic in the 2009 NBA Finals had to have held a little more sentimental value for the late superstar. Not only was it the first title he won without Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal after a nasty divorce in 2004, but it was the first time he won the Finals Most Valuable Player award.
After Shaq got shipped to the Miami Heat in 2004, Kobe had to make adjustments to his game as the Lakers’ new leader. It proved to be difficult in the first three seasons of the post-Shaq Lakers era. They missed the playoffs and suffered two consecutive first-round exits before winning the title in 2009. Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant says that the difference between Kobe during the early non-Shaq years and winning the title in 2009 was the addition of big man Paul Gasol during the 2007-08 season.
“Ima be real, bean (Kobe Bryant) would tell u the difference between him in 06 and him 09 was the addition of pau Gasol and having a chance to really chase a chip,” Durant said in response to a fan via his Twitter account on June 13.
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Kobe’s Ex-teammate Says He Was Against ‘Super Teams’
Kobe played with his fair share of talented players during his two-decade-long NBA career. Many of his teammates are already in or will be in the Hall of Fame. But according to his Olympic basketball teammate Michael Redd, being a part of a ‘super team’ was something that Bryant never considered.
“Kobe’s a year older than me and at the time we were just different-minded in that fact that we would never play with each other. We enjoyed each other. We were friends and boys but, I’m not working out with you… although me and Kobe we did work out together a couple of times in the summer together during our Olympic run,” Redd told Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson in 2020.
“But the younger guys were the ones who really started that conversation up, and obviously they were close. They came in together. Same agents. The same draft with D-Wade, ‘Melo, Bosh and LeBron, Chris Paul right behind them…so those conversations were happening with them more so than the older guys.”
Is the End of the ‘Super Team’ Era Near?
The NBA has proven to be a league of eras. And while ‘super teams’ may have been scoffed at by past players, they have become prevalent in recent years as we have seen stars such as Durant and LeBron James, team up with other superstars to create monster squads. But is the end of the super team and ‘Big 3’ era near? Looking at the teams that have gone deep into this year’s playoffs it seems the energy is about to shift.
Take the two teams in the finals, for example, the Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics. While the Warriors still have their same championship-winning core of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, they are nowhere near the same team they have been in past years.
Draymond is not the same offensive threat, and Klay Thompson is coming off two major injuries. But they have been able to fill their roster out with serviceable role players such as Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Poole, and Kevon Looney to give themselves a more versatile roster.
The Celtics have done the same thing with Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, giving their superstar duo a reliable supporting cast of role players such as Grant Williams, Robert Williams, Marcus Smart, and Al Horford. It has given them a legitimate shot at winning this year’s title.
While the concept of ‘super teams’ does give organizations a larger box office draw, it may no longer be sustainable as a winning formula.