Those who choose to surround themselves with sports encounter constant comparison.  Which player is better?  Which team is better?  If X player wins Y amount of rings, would that make him the best of all-time?  To be honest, I love it.  I need it.  I’ve always been one to squabble, and whether it’s movies, books, or the greatest third-string center of all-time, I get drawn in just like everyone else.

But I think it would be prudent if for one day, we lay off the comparisons.  We lay off the legacy talk.  As much as the Lakers are truly despised, they just completed a fantastic playoff run, and controlled the Finals in dominant fashion.  It’s not that the Lakers deserve special treatment, that they alone should be the ones to benefit from the “Day After Rule.”  Hardly.  The day after the Finals, we, as a collective (I’m not even sure who all that encompasses) should try our best to appreciate the winners for what they were able to accomplish this year.  In the context of league history and individual histories, the Lakers accomplished a lot last night.  But to boil down that championship run as Kobe’s first without Shaq, or another paperweight for Phil, or the emergence of Pau Gasol as whatever you didn’t think he was before…just seems wrong.  Focusing on individual storylines and details can be a fantastic enterprise, but in this case I truly think it disservices the bigger picture: the Lakers kicked ass in these playoffs.  They forgot who they were for a minute against the Rockets, but on the whole we’ve seen some terrific basketball from L.A..  Good enough, in fact, that today I don’t care to think about Phil vs. Red, or what this means for Kobe in the grand scheme of things.  We’ve got a long summer ahead of us, and there will be plenty of time for that.  What I want today is a proper acknowledgement that the Lakers weren’t just a really, really good team, but one that happened to trump the Magic with superior will. 

The Finals weren’t a case of divine right trumping hard work.  The Lakers definitely have the world’s largest silver spoon in their collective mouths (try wrapping your head around that), but the Finals were not an exercise in complacency.  The triangle dismantled one of the best offenses in the league, and though having a Kobe or a Pau around doesn’t hurt things, the team executed from top to bottom.  Trevor Ariza thoroughly embarrassed the Magic for their poor decision-making both on the defensive end, and in trading him to the Lakers.  Luke Walton gave quality minutes to the cause, exploiting mismatches in the post and working the ball around.  Lamar Odom did what he was designed to do when he was Frankensteined in a lab all those years ago.  Derek Fisher, who is probably too slow to still be a starting point guard, showed that at least he’s not Rafer Alston.  Business was taken care of. 

These are your 2008-2009 NBA champs, and they were brilliant.  How else do you describe Kobe’s performances?  The ball movement?  The Staples Center crowd?

…Okay, maybe not that last one.

Look, nobody is crazy about the idea of the Lakers winning it all.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate, in typical playoff fashion, the last thing that we saw.  We saw a better team execute at an incredible level against an elite defense, we saw the elevation of games on a personal and team-wide level, and we saw the Lakers perform in a manner all series long that should remove any doubts to their worthiness.  The Lakers accomplished a singularly great thing last night: a pretty damn good team playing to its potential.  As such, we should appreciate their accomplishment with blinders on.  Phil’s tenth, Kobe’s first P.S., that all can wait.  This is a day for the Lakers as a team/organization and Los Angeles as a city, as it’d be a pity for this singular success to be overlooked.

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