Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant’s comments about the Detroit Pistons aren’t cause for fans to get too bent out of shape about.
Sure, Bryant let off a little steam and said something that didn’t sound too intelligent, suggesting the Pistons basically never existed after being beaten by Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls following back-to-back titles in 1989-90 and 1990-91. The Pistons faithful hold that time period near and dear to their hearts. Who could forget Dennis “The Worm” Rodman, perhaps the baddest of the “Bad Boys?” Joe Dumars, Isaiah “Zeke” Thomas, Bill Laimbeer… ahh, the glory days.
Following Monday night’s loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Bryant lashed out when asked about the future of the Lakers, taking a shot at a team that he lost to in 2004, the Pistons, in the process.
“I’m not fading into the shadows, if that’s what you’re asking,” Bryant said after Monday’s 106-90 embarrassment at the hands of Kevin Durant and Co. “I’m not going anywhere.”
Will Bryant be with the Lakers next year? What about Pau Gasol, who was ridiculed for his lack of intensity that, in part, led to a 4-1 series loss to a young, spry and uber-athletic Thunder squad? Are the mighty Lakers — winners of five titles since 2000, and 11 since 1972 — regressing, bound to fade into mediocrity?
“We’re not going anywhere,” Bryant said. “It’s not one of those things where the Bulls beat the Pistons and the Pistons disappeared forever.
“I’m not going for that (stuff).”
Well, “disappeared forever” isn’t exactly accurate. Bryant was frustrated. He’s up on the NBA and knows the league’s history, I’m sure. In case he forgot, here’s a little recap of how the Pistons “disappeared” after losing to the Jordan-led Bulls, who won six titles, including two three-peats, in the 1990s.
Granted, the Pistons weren’t all that successful in the 1990s. They were rebuilding, and just in time for a storied run to six straight Eastern Conference Finals in the 2000s.
Detroit was swept by the New Jersey Nets, led by Jason Kidd, in 2003. However, the Pistons bounced back in 2004, claiming a 4-2 series win over the Indiana Pacers and beating Bryant and the Lakers 4-1 in the NBA Finals. Mind you, Los Angeles had won three straight championships from 2000-02.
In 2005, Detroit beat the Miami Heat in the Eastern Finals, only to lose to Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs in the Finals. The next season, however, the Heat got revenge and beat the Pistons in six games before winning it all with Dwyane Wade and ex-Lakers star Shaquille O’Neal.
The Pistons, by most accounts, are on the upswing. With players like Greg Monroe, and All-Rookie talent Brandon Knight, Detroit could be playoff-bound within the next two or three seasons, depending on how it drafts, of course. There is reason to believe that the once-proud Pistons are on course to give fans something to get behind, support, and cheer for.
The Lakers, on the other hand, may be without center Andrew Bynum next season. They lost their “glue guy,” Derek Fisher, and Gasol may not be around much longer, either. Los Angeles looks to be ending an era, while the Pistons are in the midst of starting a new era of winning.
Listen, Bryant is without a doubt one of the greatest players in NBA history — top 10, even. His distaste for the Pistons is warranted and understood. However, Pistons fans shouldn’t get too miffed about his comments. He’s an aging veteran who probably just missed out on his last chance to capture a title.
The changing of the guard is around the corner. Oklahoma City could be one such franchise to lead the way. The Lakers won’t fade away, they’re the Lakers. But, Kobe, the Pistons didn’t, either. You’re excused, and better luck next time.
Follow Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81. Follow Detroit Sports 360 @DETSports360.