Kobe Bryant, the ultimate perimeter player, signs off

Bryant ended his career on a high note scoring 60 points in the season finale.

Bryant ended his career on a high note scoring 60 points in the season finale.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

Kobe Bryant played the last game of his 20-year career for the Los Angeles Lakers amid much fanfare on Wednesday, April 13. Bryant dazzled fans, scoring 60 points as the Lakers defeated the Utah Jazz in the season finale, capping a farewell tour for Bryant that started once he made it clear he was retiring at the end of this season.

"Penny" Hardaway (left) and Grant Hill (right) were two players primed to fill the void of Jordan's departure until injuries severely altered their careers.

“Penny” Hardaway (left) and Grant Hill (right) were two players primed to fill the void of Jordan’s departure until injuries severely altered their careers.

While not accurate, it is often said that Michael Jordan passed the proverbial torch to Bryant.

The similarities between Bryant and Jordan are easy to see. Both are similar in height, position played, disposition on the court, and team success.

However, many forget that there were two superstars who were poised to follow in Jordan’s footsteps but suffered career altering injuries: Anfernee (Penny) Hardaway, and Grant Hill. Both superstars were similar to Bryant early in their careers because they had charisma, exciting talent and marketing appeal.

On the strength of two championships at Duke university, Hill emerged quickly as a superstar leading all NBA All-Star Game players in fan voting in his rookie season and soon afterwards leading the Detroit Pistons to multiple playoff appearances. Hill was a dynamic player with excellent scoring and play-making ability.

While Bryant was carving his niche early in his career, other players like Tracy McGrady (left) and Vince Carter (right) were among the guards that Bryant battled with.

While Bryant was carving his niche early in his career, other players like Tracy McGrady (left) and Vince Carter (right) were among the guards that Bryant battled with.

Hardaway also had quick success, helping to lead the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals in 1995 with Shaquille O’neal. Hardaway and Hill had huge endorsement deals and were well positioned to be pre-eminent perimeter players in the NBA upon Jordan’s second retirement in 1999.

Other perimeter player contemporaries of Bryant who entered the NBA during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s include Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Allen Iverson, Steve Nash, and Ray Allen.

All of these players helped lead their teams in different ways, while displaying entertaining and captivating styles of play. All of these players were also major faces in advertising, which assisted in bringing extra attention to the NBA internationally.

(I - r) Allen Iverson, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade, are among the list of players Bryant had brief rivalries with during his career.

(I – r) Allen Iverson, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade, are among the list of players Bryant had brief rivalries with during his career.

Bryant might have the highest international profile of all of the previous mentioned players, except Jordan, and his battles with those players helped pave the way for the current wave of perimeter All Stars. Bryant’s 20 year career has allowed him to compete with players already in the basketball Hall of Fame as well as number of players likely to land there as well.

Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, James Harden, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and LeBron James headline a long list of perimeter players that have carried the torch of exciting the fans and helping fans fill the impending the void created upon Bryant’s retirement.

Bryant had a fond farewell and received respect and admiration from fans and peers throughout the night.

Bryant had a fond farewell and received respect and admiration from fans and peers throughout the night.

As Bryant retires, perimeter play is on the uptick in the NBA. The last several regular season and NBA Finals MVP have been perimeter players. Bryant reminded all spectators that current NBA fans enjoy seeing their perimeter stars score in bundles as he scored the most points by a player this season in his final game. A great ending to an even greater career.–OnPointPress.net–

 

Which team has the brighter future: the Knicks or the Lakers?

Carmelo Anthony (l) and Kobe Bryant (r) are in different circumstances for marquee franchises but both have championship aspirations for the next couple of seasons.

Carmelo Anthony (l) and Kobe Bryant (r) are in different circumstances with underperforming franchises but both have championship aspirations for the next couple of seasons.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

The New York Knicks formally introduced Phil Jackson as president of basketball operations on Tuesday, March 18, sparking feelings of hope in the minds of optimistic fans. But there are plenty of skeptics who point to the tall task ahead of the “Zen Master” and many of the questions at the press conference were aimed at figuring out Jackson’s commitment to his first position as a basketball executive.

Phil Jackson had all the answers today at the press conference. This might not happen again for a while.

Phil Jackson seemed to have all the answers at Tuesday’s press conference. This might not happen again for a while.

There were a few noticeable takeaways from Tuesday’s press conference. Knicks fans must have felt annoyed to hear Knicks owner James Dolan almost gleefully admit: “I am not a basketball expert,” when he was asked specific questions. Dolan, however, recognized that it was time to hire someone who knows the game and he seemed happy to offer the position to Jackson. For his part, Jackson did not avoid the challenge with being present in New York year round, stating, “I plan to establish myself here [in New York] but I do have doctors and …other family I am committed to in L.A. as well.” With Jackson in the fold, there is a legitimate question as to which marquee, but underperforming franchise has a brighter immediate future: the New York Knicks or Los Angeles Lakers?

Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak has the experience of building a championship team.

Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak has the experience of building a championship team.

While Phil Jackson has plenty of experience as a basketball player and coach, current Knicks General Manager Steve Mills is in his first year in the position. This is in stark contrast to the Lakers’ Mitch Kupchak who is far more experienced. Kupchak is a former player and champion for the Washington Bullets and Lakers. He has been an executive for the Lakers since the late 1980’s. Kupchak learned directly under one of the best NBA executives of all times in Jerry West and has been the GM since 2000. This wealth of experience should give Lakers fans hope that Kupchak can fix the current mess the team finds itself in.

Knicks head coach Mike Woodson (l) and Lakers head coach Mike  D'Antoni may be looking for new jobs next season.

Knicks Head Coach Mike Woodson (l) and Lakers Head Coach Mike D’Antoni may be looking for new jobs next season.

There is a great deal of focus on the upcoming season and how these franchises will rebound, yet the Knicks still have a chance to make the playoffs this year. Knicks Head Coach Mike Woodson will have a hard time retaining his position regardless of the team’s final win-loss outcome. The Lakers are already eliminated from playoff contention and their coach, Mike D’Antoni, will have a difficult time convincing Lakers’ management to continue being patient with him, if the Lakers finally come to their senses. Neither team can know what direction their team is headed before they know who the leader of their team will be. Both franchises have to figure out the coach of the future to help create structure for these teams.

Robert Sacre (l), J.R. Smith (c), and Jordan Hill (r) are unheralded members of the Knicks and Lakers that are not likely in either teams' long term future.

Robert Sacre (l), J.R. Smith (c), and Jordan Hill (r) are unheralded members of the Knicks and Lakers that are not likely in either teams’ long term future.

The Lakers will have only Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash definitely on the roster for next season. They will have plenty of cap space and their first round draft pick this year. Meanwhile, the Knicks will be over the salary cap next season, whether Carmelo Anthony opts out of his contract or not, and they do not have a first round draft pick this year. Both teams have publicly stated a desire to wait until the summer of 2015, when a host of all-star caliber players become free agents, before they spend the money the team has available under the cap. This process may seem prudent but may not work for the stars of each prospective franchise. Bryant has only two years left on his deal, and maybe in his career. He has been clear in recent comments: “no I’m not that patient…I don’t want to be a part of another season like this,” he has said. Anthony has also been on the record stating, “I want to win championships…in the near future.”

Both teams have several decisions to make about players, personnel and coaches. The Knicks now have a brilliant basketball mind in the front office and a top 5 scorer currently under contract. However, the Lakers will have 2014 and 2015 to strategically spend free agent money, make trades, draft players, and build a championship contender, like they normally do. It’s a toss-up to see if the personnel/coaching/player movements will achieve the desired results for either team.–OnPointPress.net–

Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and management training consultant. Follow me @OpenWindowMES on Twitter.com.