These Lakers aren't a dynasty ... not yet, anyway

Friday, June 14, 2002

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- As much as I like these Lakers -- Shaq, Kobe, Phil and the cast -- they have some more work to do before we can put them in the same category as Michael's Bulls, Russell's Celtics or Magic's Lakers.

It's going to take a four-peat before I grant the current Lakers dynasty status.

Their titles have come too easy. They've yet to be tested in the NBA finals, and that's not because the Lakers' play has been dominant. It's because the Eastern Conference has yet to offer the Lakers a legitimate threat.

As expected, Los Angeles finished its wax job of the overmatched New Jersey Nets on Wednesday night by slapping the Nets 113-107.

LA's 4-0 sweep of the series continued a trend of the Lake Show winning its titles with more ease. Shaq and Kobe beat Reggie Miller's Indiana Pacers in six games. The Lakers followed that 2000 title with a five-game spanking of Allen Iverson's 76ers last season.

Now this. We just sat through the most boring and predictable and one-sided finals in quite some time. You need drama to create legends, and this series produced virtually none -- beyond speculation about which old-school jersey Kobe Bryant would wear to the game.

And without legend, without a grueling test on the league's grandest stage, can you really have a dynasty? I don't think so. There's nothing we'll really remember from this finals series, and there's little to remember from their 2002 title run.

There's no flu game (Jordan). There's no push-off for the series-clinching jump shot (Jordan). No Laker drove across the lane in the final seconds and unspooled a feathery hook shot to win the game (Magic). I don't remember Shaquille O'Neal getting ill and Kobe filling in, jumping center, playing all five positions and scoring 42 points (Magic).

Dynasties are built on championships and drama. The Lakers have the rings. Now they just need some drama. They need to be tested in the finals. It's great what they did against the Sacramento Kings in the Western Conference finals. But that's not good enough. They need to face an Eastern Conference team with enough talent to take them seven games.

Short of that, the Lakers need a four-peat.

That would cement their legacy. That would push coach Phil Jackson past Red Auerbach for the most NBA titles. They're currently tied with nine titles. A four-peat would be an accomplishment Jordan never achieved. It would clearly set the Kobe-Shaq Lakers apart from all other modern-day dynasties.

Right now, it's difficult to argue that these Lakers stack up with the "Showtime" Lakers or Jordan's Bulls.

The Showtime Lakers had a far superior supporting cast. Besides Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the Lakers had James Worthy, Byron Scott, Michael Cooper and at least one sure-fire scoring threat off the bench. Cooper, the defensive whiz, would have contained Kobe and allowed the other Lakers to concentrate on slowing Shaq. Trust me, Kareem would need a lot of help to keep Shaq below 40 points.

With a four-peat, you could legitimately argue that Shaq is the most dominant force in the history of the league, surpassing Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain.

Shaq played through injury and pain during these playoffs. He refused to let his production slip, and he refused to make excuses. He was courageous. He obviously deserved the finals MVP award.

Now he needs one more title to finish his legacy.

Jason Whitlock is a sports columnist for The Kansas City Star.

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