If you didn’t think that “you can’t win on without Shaquille O’Neal” talk effected Kobe, take a look at this post-game gem.
“I don’t have to hear that criticism, that idiotic criticism, anymore,” Bryant said of how this championship was different than the last three. “That’s the biggest thing.”
Or there was this comment.
“It felt like a big ol’ monkey was off my back.”
The entire idea that Kobe couldn’t win a title without Shaq is rooted in the fallacy that any player really wins a title alone — every championship basketball team had at least one other quality player around its big star. Heck, the legendary Celtics teams of Red Auerbach had a squad full of Hall of Famers.
“It’s just silly, every team has a dynamic duo,” Bryant said.
Silly or not, the criticism ate away at Kobe. When he thought that another title was not going to come his way in LA — he didn’t want to wait around for Andrew Bynum to develop — he demanded a trade. He spouted off to people with camera phones in parking lots. He called for more veterans.
Of course, few people saw that Mitch Kupchak was quietly building a team of players whose games really fit the diverse triangle offense. Nobody in their right mind thought Kupchak could turn Kwame Brown into Pau Gasol.
But he did. And Gasol gave the production of Shaq, but with a more finesse and without the massive ego — the oversized personality that ate up the media and fan attention and at times left Bryant in the shadows.
Now Bryant is out of the shadows and is the unquestioned leader of a championship team. And the critics have a lot less to say today.