A couple of years ago, I went with my brother to a Lakers game against Memphis, and Bryant scored 56 points in three quarters before being taken out of a blowout. I told my brother, “remember this, because you won’t see it again for a while.” So much for that.
Sports is an area where hyperbole comes so fast and furious there is a reasonable tendency to discount it. But Bryant’s 81 last night was history-making. One could make a decent argument that it was more impressive than Wilt’s 100. Bryant (81 out of 122) had a higher percentage of his team’s point than Wilt did (100 out of 169). It was a higher-scoring era back then. And Wilt was basically the only 7-footer who didn’t trip over himself; he had a unique comparative advantage that Bryant does not.
I’ve been a Laker fan since I was six, and so I qualify as an old-timer in this field. (If you can say who was the Lakers’ center in between Wilt and Kareem, how the Lakers got him and what his uniform number was, then you qualify. Don’t try this at home.). I’ve never been a huge Bryant fan outside of the fact that he plays for my team, but you’ve got to say that the decision to let Shaq go and keep Kobe is looking better and better every day. The Lakers are 22-19 at the break, which won’t make anyone forget Showtime, but the Heat are only 24-17. Put another way, neither of these teams is going to win the title, but Shaq looks old. He’s just not the player he used to be. He always turns it around come playoff time, but he’s very much on the down side. Can you imagine if the Lakers had kept him, and he had to carry the team without a Dwayne Wade playing alongside of him?
It’s silly to try to assign blame for who was at fault for the breakup; let’s just say that these two monstrous egos couldn’t keep playing together. If that’s so, these last few weeks seem to show that the Lakers did the right thing. I can’t see a way that they get back to championship level for a while, but it will be a fun show in the meantime.
Author: Jonathan Zasloff
Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees.
Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses.
Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.
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