Whoever coined the phrase “Why can’t we be friends?” took a major halt as the 2009 National Basketball Association All-Star Game occurred in Phoenix, Arizona.
In Southern California, we were united with a taste of 1999-2004 as Kobe Bryant, Shaq, and Phil Jackson were teammates again, this time as members of the 2008-09 Western Conference All-Star team.
After the 2004 season, Shaq got traded to the Miami Heat, while Kobe signed a long-term deal and Phil Jackson semi-retired. He wrote a book about the heat, not the Miami Heat, but the heat between the triangle of legends. In Shaq’s first return to Los Angeles during Christmas 2004, he would not look up at the Jumbotron as the Lakers honored him before the game. Kobe and Shaq did not speak, let alone share holiday cheer. In fact, Shaq and Kobe got into a war of words through the media.
In 2006, after the Heat won the championship, the rift between the two seemed to chill down. Meanwhile, Phil Jackson returned to the Lakers as head coach. Before the match-up, Kobe and Shaq shook hands and it seemed like the war was over. Kobe was leading the sub-par Lakers while Shaq got the key to the city of Miami.
Last year, the Heat traded the big Aristotle to the desert, where he became the big cactus in Phoenix. So the once dynamic duo now became enemies in one of the NBA’s most current rivalries as the Phoenix Suns were responsible for two Laker playoff exits the past two seasons. The Lakers improved and were in control of the West only to lose to the Celtics in the NBA finals.
As we enter this year’s All-Star game, the Lakers are the best team in the NBA, led by Kobe and Phil and a talented bunch of role players including fellow All-Star Pau Gasol.
While Shaq is currently in ninth in the Western Conference, the Suns lie in limbo as the future in Phoenix is uncertain. Speculation among the Sun’s faithful is that Head Coach Terry Porter may get fired, while their best player Amare Stoudemire is suffering from a case of the trade winds.
But on this night of NBA celebration comes a happy moment for the once dynamic duo. Kobe and Shaq landed the 2009 All-Star game as co-MVPs. As flashes of their old tandem were well observed, Kobe finished with game-high 27 points, while Shaq got 17 points, leading the West to a 146-119 victory.
For one night in February, we could see that even the two most proud men,when it comes to problems, can get along and work together. Under a new nickname “the big legendaries” (and Shaq you are right, when it comes to basketball, you two are the big legendaries of today on and off the basketball court) both players showed the world that anything can be accomplished with teamwork and getting through the tough times. I think the United States can look at this and gain hope for the future, as sports often is an escape when people are down, or going through hardships. Can You Dig It?