Commentary

Kobe and Phil are deserving champions

Updated: June 15, 2009, 3:35 PM ET
By Dick Vitale | ESPN.com

I was lucky enough to be in Orlando at Game 4 and Game 5 of the NBA Finals. I saw a brilliant performance from one of the greatest winners of our time. I enjoyed watching a coach in a record-breaking effort.

This was so special for Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson.

Kobe Bryant is a flat-out winner. Anyway you want to cut it, understand that he has that inate ability and competitive drive. Think about guys like Derek Jeter, Joe Montana and Michael Jordan and know that it is all about today and not about yesterday.

To me, Kobe Bryant carried a team that was not as special as past Laker champions. Let's be honest, that line-up was not a vintage squad compared to teams with Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy. This was not a unit like Shaq and Kobe had in winning three titles.

Give credit to the Lakers front office and Mitch Kupchak for bringing in Pau Gasol. In fact, the Lakers should send a ring down to the executives in Memphis because this championship doesn't happen without the Gasol deal! Los Angeles got the big guy needed for Kobe to work with and you need that to have success on the NBA level.

Without a solid post player, you usually fall short of the championship. Simply look at the importance of guys like Tim Duncan and Shaq, or even think about the Celtics last year with the addition of Kevin Garnett. Go all the way back to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and you understand the need for a big man inside.

Gasol was a gift from Memphis. Santa Claus came early and the Spaniard became a difference maker.

Look at the rest of that line-up. Lamar Odom enjoyed an outstanding postseason. Derek Fisher is a veteran guard with solid leadership skills; he certainly made the clutch game-tying shot in Game 4. Trevor Ariza bounced around with the Magic and Knicks before finding his niche back in LA, where he also stood out in college at UCLA.

Think about the past Lakers teams and you understand how much Kobe carried this team to the winner's circle. He averaged over 30 points, seven assists and five rebounds during the final 5-game series.

Kobe will go down in history as one of the greatest players of all-time, with Michael Jordan and LeBron James. Yes, King James has a lot of work to do by getting championships.

Jordan was on his own level until Kobe and LeBron came on in recent years. Now there can be a legitimate discussion.

Phil Jackson is in a class by himself with his 10th championship as an NBA head coach.

I'm sick and tired of hearing members of the media downplay Jackson's accomplishments by saying he had so much talent. I am upset hearing radio guys talking about the stars he coached.

I keep hearing that he won because he had Jordan and Scottie Pippen in Chicago; he stepped onto the Lakers sideline with Kobe and Shaq ... give me a break!

I ask you, can you name me a coach or manager who won a championship and didn't have talent? Why do you think they won?

I love John Wooden, the best of them all on the college level ... do you think that Mr. Alcindor or Mr. Walton could play?

When Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers won the first two Super Bowls, could Bart Starr play? Were there not a few future Hall of Famers in that line-up?

What about Casey Stengel and Joe Torre with the Yankees? If you glance at those line-ups, weren't there a few stars shining?

That is the most absurd and ludicrous statement to question Jackson's success because he had talent.

How about giving Jackson credit for blending all of these egos over the years, getting them to commit to his concepts and ideas? This is a coach who has won with different types of players, different styles of play, and he has always adjusted when the time was right.

He won without two Hall of Famers together like Jordan and Pippen, or Shaq and Kobe. He has accomplished the goals, baby!

Jackson has an NBA championship ring on every finger as a coach, plus a couple as a player with the Knicks. I know, don't forget about the CBA championship in Albany too!

It is a great time for Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson to celebrate. A few years ago, people said this moment would not happen. These two guys showed what motivation and inspiration can do, baby!

Dick Vitale

College Basketball analyst
Dick Vitale, college basketball's top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season. His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate style. Vitale also contributes columns to ESPN.com.