Warning: intangibles alert!
Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing. And winning creates chemistry. Does that mean that chemistry is the only thing?
Certainly not, but it's important. Which got me thinking about the Lakers. If they win tonight, their 15th title is all but assured. Yet will there have been a less likable championship Lakers team than this year's edition?
The "Showtime"-era Lakers were fueled by the charisma of Magic Johnson, while the early-aughts Lakers derived much of their personality from Shaquille O'Neal's oversized ego.
But the 2009 Lakers clearly belong to Kobe Bryant, and while his unsmiling drive to win is admirable, it has left me a little cold. Even as the camera showed Kobe hugging his wife and kids as he left the Staples Center court after Game 2, all I could think about was their maid's lawsuit.
Other Lakers suffer from this more-admirable-than-likable quality. As T.J. Simers of the LA Times puts it:
PAU GASOL is the reason Bryant has the chance to win another title, but he really is a big baby, whining on almost every foul call. Just one more reason why it's so difficult to embrace these guys.
Which brings us to the Dodgers. Let me just say this piece is a hell of a lot easier to write now that Jeff Kent is retired.
As with the Lakers, this year's Dodgers have taken on the personality of their most prominent player: Manny Ramirez. Suspension and all, Manny is the root of the team's newfound clubhouse unity.
Absent Manny, several players have given the Dodgers a welcome dose of personality, most notably Orlando Hudson (upbeat and talkative), Matt Kemp (have you seen a player smile so much on the field?), Russell Martin (the team's de facto captain) and Clayton Kershaw (who complements his abilities with an aw-shucks humility). Even Andre Ethier, torn between family and team, remains a fan favorite.
All the hip-bumping and high-fiving after a Dodger victory feels genuine. When Kobe acknowledges a teammate, sometimes it feels more like a relief that nobody screwed up.
Yeah, I know — if the unlikable Lakers win and the likable Dodgers lose, history will only remember the championship. Winning is its own reward. And of course I'm still rooting for the Lakers.
But victory is so much sweeter when the players look like they're having fun.
photo by Mark J. Terrill/AP