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Remembering Kobe Bryant’s Legacy; “The Final Ring” Review

Looking at the comments section for video clips of “The Final Ring,” there is some hate and some love for the series. Critics are pointing out the narrator’s “annoying” voice and the episode’s amateur look. Nevertheless, one thing the docuseries should be applauded for is the universal concepts of teamwork that it has been able to weave through its storytelling.

 

The fifth and sixth episodes of “The Final Ring” had substance. The fifth discussed the impact Lamar Odom had on the 2010 Lakers championship team. Meanwhile, the sixth episode focused on former Lakers’ head coach Phil Jackson, who the narrator says coached Kobe Bryant for “over 75 percent of his career.”

The sixth episode in particular was interesting… I mean, how could it fail? Well, it could not include any interviews from the two main characters, Kobe and Phil Jackson. Guess what? It did not have any.

However, still I think that the ideas about teamwork and Phil’s “zen master” approach to handling the ups and downs of his star-laden team will prove interesting for any one, sports fan or not to watch.

 

Let’s dive into the fifth episode on Lamar Odom of “The Final Ring.”

“The Final Ring,” Episode 5: Lamar Odom

The quote below by the docuseries’ narrator captured my attention as to why an entire episode was dedicated to a player who was not one of the Lakers’ starting players in 2010.

“Every sixth man has an abundance of irrational confidence. So much confidence, that if you put them in a second unit, they’ll always have the potential to become the best player on the court… They can literally be the difference between winning a chip and painfully accepting second place. The craziest thing is the Lakers had all of this in Lamar Odom.”

A “sixth man” in basketball is the first player who comes off the bench and is able to play just as well or better than the players in the team’s starting five.

Laker Jordan Farmar chimed in on how fortunate the Lakers were to have Lamar Odom playing as their sixth man.

“He could’ve started for 95 percent of the teams in the NBA at the time.”

Kobe and Lamar’s Relationship

Odom struggled with drug problems after leaving the Lakers and the documentary touched on this. I remember when Odom underwent a drug-induced coma in 2015. Kobe was “happy to see his brother alive.”

On an episode about himself, Odom does not comment except in brief TV interviews. I guess it was by design that Odom would not talk about himself, but he could have shed light on what kind of struggle he was going through after leaving L.A. That would have made the episode more revealing.

After Kobe’s death on Jan. 26, 2020. the episode uses a TV interview where Odom says “I’m going to miss him dearly.” The narrator consistently delivers great quotes that summarize Odom’s relationship to Kobe and his skill on the court at the same time:

“Kobe had the spotlight, but he certainly enjoyed every second of it with Lamar. The two made their own Michael Jordan-Scottie Pippen dynamic… He was seen as the guy who was busy keeping up with the Kardashians, but in reality, he was the glue-guy who made it work on an off the court.”

Takeaways

I liked this episode, because it lists Odom a key part of the Lakers’ 2010 championship. Odom does not get the credit he deserves for his contribution. I find it amazing that, even though he was a great player around the 2009-2011 time period, people do not remember him. Sports fans in general forgot the Lakers’ 2009 and 2010 championships, because they came right before LeBron James won his first NBA Title in 2012.

Despite the elements that fell short, this episode flows smoothly and is more than a minute shorter (8:40) than the other five episodes. If you want to hear about a player who sacrificed the “spotlight” so that he could fulfill his role on a championship-bound-team, then the fifth episode of Clutchpoint’s docuseries, “The Final Ring” is worth watching.

“The Final Ring,” Episode 6: Phil Jackson

“Using unorthodox methods and his even-keel demeanor, Jackson reigned in personalities that would overpower lesser men. While he never physically threw Bryant a pass…or set him a pick, Phil Jackson was just as important to Kobe’s success as any of his teammates.” – The Narrator

 

While mystical music is playing in the background, the sixth episode opens with Kobe Bryant saying Phil Jackson taught him about “the mindfulness of the game.” The story goes on to explain how Jackson used the coaching method he trusted in to “reign in” Kobe Bryant’s tendency to ignore the advice he got from his coach and help deliver a total of five championships to Los Angeles from 2000-2010.

This episode will focus on Jackson specifically, while the details of the 2010 NBA title run are cast aside.

The sixth episode of “The Final Ring” starts out by labeling every starting Lakers player in 2010. It’s presented as if Jackson had a motley crew of hard-to-manage personalities. It labels Ron Artest as “the Star of the Malice at the Palace.”

The best part of all of this is how it breaks down Jackson’s individualized approaches as a coach that helped his players appreciate him.

What You Don’t Know: Kobe and Phil

I didn’t realize that Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant butted heads during Bryant’s “early days”. The narrator describes the tug-of-war was ongoing between the team’s head coach and their best player from 2000-2004.

This is a quote that the series takes from Jackson’s book, “The Last Season” and it relates to Kobe.

“Kobe can be consumed with surprising anger, which he’s displayed towards me and his teammates. He rebels against authority.”

What was even more interesting to hear was that Jackson and Kobe had had their struggles all the way through their “three-peat” from 2000-2002.

However, the series explains that even though Jackson resigned from Lakers head coach after the 2004 season, but he could not “stay away for long.”

Despite Jackson saying some harsh things about Kobe after leaving his post in 2004, the two were able to bury the hatchet. It is also amazing that the two were not too tired of working hard to reunite. At that point, Jackson was a ten-time NBA champion as a player and coach. He could have felt like quitting, but he did not quit on the Lakers. “The Zen Master” did things that no other coach could have done for the 2010 Lakers.

Jackson’s Quality

Throughout the series, perhaps an underrated contribution to the series is the sound bites from the lesser-known players. This episode features quotes from a total of four Lakers: Adam Morrison, Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic, and Josh Powell.

Adam Morrison did not often play in the team’s games, but he still described how Jackson still made sure he was treated with dignity.

“The one thing I always liked about Phil is he always took the time to tell you why you weren’t playing or gave you a reason why. He will always tell you and you respect that as a player because he’s treating you as a human begin and as a professional no matter what’s your place on the team.”

Later on, the episode featured comments from Josh Powell.

“The way Phil was and how he handled it, I was just beyond grateful because he was so patient and he knew how to push the right buttons. In that system, everybody had a chance to shine.”

Powell’s comments ooze with appreciation for Jackson and what he did for his career. Throughout this episode, many Lakers, who were not starters, describe Phil in a positive light, which shows how important he was to not just the star players, but everybody on the 2010 championship-winning-team.

Jackson’s Coaching Philosophy Spans Two Dynasties

The Lakers weren’t the only team Jackson to victory. While coaching the Chicago Bulls during their 1990’s dynasty, Jackson had to manage Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman. Yet again, he made it work and the Bulls would win six championships.

Before I had watched this episode, I had no clue that the greatest NBA head coach of all-time had called Kobe Bryant “un-coachable.” However, the moral of the story here is how, back in 2010, Kobe and Phil were able to put their past in the rear-view mirror and work together towards their common goal: winning another NBA championship.

What I think this episode represents most clearly is that the respect that Phil Jackson showed towards all his players, from Kobe on down to the bench players, would create that winning culture in Los Angeles that many other teams did not have.

As is made clear in the opening narration, MJ has six titles, Bill Russell won eleven NBA titles and “the man who wears the most rings, is the same man who guided Kobe to five of his own, Phil Jackson.” Jackson is the winningest coach in NBA history and he treats all his players with respect and dignity, which is truly great.

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Anthony Paradiso
Anthony Paradiso has written feature stories for In The Zone since September. Before that, Anthony had covered the NY Rangers and Red Bulls II since June of 2019. He has reported on-camera and written a monthly column for NYC newspaper, West View News since 2017. A graduate of Montclair State University, currently he co-hosts a sports talk show on University radio station, 90.3 FM WMSC.
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