The fragility of the dynasty has been well-documented, both on and off the court. A Game 7 meltdown for the ages. A fortuitous bounce towards #5. Controversy in an elimination Game 6. And plenty of Todd MacCulloch in the Finals. Yet, there was no uncertainty regarding the status of those Laker teams from 2000-2002. Three championships – that’s a dynasty. 100+ games year after year, playing deep into the heart of June, a full month or two more than everybody else. And from November through June, those Laker teams faced the best that everybody in the league had to offer. Sure, they had to be lucky, but they also had to be good.
It eats at me when people point to the Spurs as some kind of dynasty. Four in nine years – an impressive streak to be sure. But it’s a different type of accomplishment altogether. It doesn’t reflect that same continuity, that same endurance and perseverance. There’s a reason why the 1990s Bulls are the only other team in the past 40 years to have won three in a row. Great teams deal with the injuries. With the grind. With the burden of being champions. The Spurs haven’t defended a title successfully, not once. Of course, there shouldn’t even be a debate. Were it but for a dose of maturity, selflessness, and wiser personnel moves, three could have been five or six, and the 2003 title the Spurs won would have been a blip on the radar, an anomaly overshadowed by a decade of purple and gold.
It’s been six years since that third ring, four years since we’ve gone this far. It’s been a lifetime. Kobe, Fish, and Phil are still here, but everything else is different. They’ve changed as well. Yet, there’s a certain poetry here. If the Lakers move on, they would play Boston or Detroit. A throwback to the glory days of the franchise, or a role-reversal with the team that stomped the last gasps of the dynasty four years ago. Of course, that’s down the line. Right here, right now, in the 2008 Western Conference Finals, the Spurs lurk. Looking to defend their title. To further cement their place in history. Four in nine is a lot different from five in ten, from three of the last four. That’s a true dynasty. The Lakers stand in their way. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Because to be the Man, you have to beat the man.