There’s a lot on the line for Kobe, LeBron, Melo and Dwight Howard


There’s always a lot on the line in the Conference Finals. But this year it seems like there is more at stake for the superstars still standing. Let’s start with…


Kobe Bryant has made it abundantly clear that his #1 priority is to win another title. This focus is not unusual for players that haven’t won a ring, but Kobe has three, so why is he so determined to win a fourth? Simply stated, for the sake of his own legacy, he has to win a title without Shaq.

If he fails, he will be viewed by history as a great player who won a few titles as Shaq’s sidekick. This is not the legacy that Kobe wants to leave. Barring a two- or three-peat, he’s not going to be able to catch Michael Jordan, but if he is able to win a ring this year — and he’s the first to admit that this is his best chance — then he’ll do it as “The Guy” on a championship team. There’s no Shaq wreaking havoc in the middle, just a collection of players deemed too soft (Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom) or too young (Andrew Bynum, Jordan Farmar, Trevor Ariza) that Kobe led to the Promised Land.

And the clock is ticking. Kevin Garnett could come back strong next season, LeBron is getting better by the year, and there are a few up-and-coming teams (Orlando, Houston, Portland, etc.) that are looking to knock Kobe off of his perch.

The time is now. Kobe’s window is closing, and he knows it.

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