Off we go let the trumpets blow...... the Rulers back.
If my last post was "My Favorite Basketball Commercial," well this may be "my favorite basketball cover." You might have noticed, it's the original picture of Kobe, LeBron, and Carmelo that I use for my True Hoops image. It's the type of attitude I wanted for this blog.
No, this is not some imperialistic or colonial reference.
Try Slick Rick Rulers, with connotation to the USA being the originators.
The demise of USA basketball in international play was well documented leading up to the 2008 olympics:
6th place finish int the '02 world championships
bronze medal in the '04 olympics
bronze medal in the '06 world championships.
With these results came the obligatory questions: Did we have the best players in the world anymore? Did we have the best brand of basketball? Did our players lack skills and shooting? Could we play team basketball?
But really, how did things get to be this way?
Well, we laid down the blueprint in '92.
Then all of a sudden we had all these other countries (mainly Argentina and Spain) jacking our style and beating us literally at our own game. Not to mention that the best players actually playing (mainly Manu Ginobli, Pau Gasol, and Dirk Nowizki) were from other countries.
Enough was enough.
If the rest of the world wanted our best, it was time to give it to them.
That's why in '08, y'all were going to have to deal with our baddest bad ass.
That's right homie, y'all are gonna get Kobe.
And just in case that wasn't enough for you to chew on, y'all are gonna have to deal with our young lions as well: LeBron and Carmelo (not to mention D. Wade coming off the bench!).
Forget the redeem team.
The Rulers are back to reclaim what is rightfully ours.
And that's what this SLAM magazine cover (before the 2008 Beijing olympics) is all about.
This picture is so bad ass I'm getting chills right now just writing this.
Look at Kobe with his arms folded - grilling you.
That's right, we got the Black Mamba - the best player in the world (coming off his MVP season).
Look at his face, you think this dude is messing around?
Now Look at LeBron and Carmelo behind him.
Those dudes aren't exactly slouches themselves (as you know, Lebron would go on to win the next two MVPs), and you best believe they got Kobe's back. You mess with him, you mess with them.
Their position conveys so much. It's as if they are willfully taking a step back - following Kobe's lead and demeanor with their arms folded as well. Look at their faces - it's as if they're saying "you know we're here with this dude right?"
Maybe during the NBA season these cats had there eyes on Kobe's number one status, but here, game recognize game and they knew they were there to help him protect the throne.
Talk about sacrificing for your country.
They were all are here for one goal.
As for the actual olympic games, the rest is history. Especially that gold medal game against Spain.
I was actually up at around 4 in the morning to watch it.
And boy was I glad that I did - as it really brought the promise of this SLAM cover to fruition.
Spain, to it's credit, pushed the US to the limit.
So, in a pressure situation in the 4th quarter, what would the US do?
Who would they turn to???
You take a good look at the picture on the top of this page.
Now, you tell if you think that guy in the middle wasn't going home with the gold.
That's why we brought the dude this time.
And when push came to shove, that's why we won this time.
It is my firm belief that if it were not for Kobe, the US would have lost.
What was great was that up until that gold medal game, Kobe - much like Jason Kidd - seemed to be on the team merely for symbolic purposes. And Kobe, to his credit, was a good father lion in letting his young teammates eat and do most of the work as the US ran through the competition. But once Kobe sensed danger for his home and youngsters - it was time to spring into action.
I was actually a little concerned when Spain made a game of it in the 4th. More so because I thought Kobe was going to go crazy, rebel against coach K's system, and ruin everything in the process.
It was only after the game I heard that in one of the 4th quarter huddles everyone on the team, including coach K, actually told Kobe "it's time for the mamba."
And mamba delivered - saving the US in the process.
That takes guts. But it also takes everyone stepping to the side to let Kobe take over.
Again, that's what this cover conveys.
One final thought.
Everyone wants to compare Kobe to Jordan (or at least they wanted to compare LeBron to Jordan).
Other than championships, if you look at their respective numbers and achievements, Kobe doesn't stand a chance (pretty much no one does). How would they match up on the court? That would be a lot closer as both would have advantages in different skill sets. I would love to see a battle of their wills.
But, there are some things that Kobe has done and faced that even Jordan never did.
Scoring 81 points in a game is a nice start.
How about beating the Celtics in game 7 of the NBA finals?
Well, how about facing the pressure on having an entire nation on your shoulders in the 4th quarter of a gold medal game? Think about that. We can say that Jordan would have done the same. Maybe.
But Kobe actually did it.
We're talking global pressure.
Kobe faced it and brought home the gold.
This nation owes him a debt of gratitude.