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

Four episodes in, the focus of “The Final Ring” docuseries remains to shine a light on what the best stories were on the Los Angeles Lakers’ 2010 championship-winning-team. However, these last two episodes were far more detailed than the first two.

In particular, the fourth episode provides great insights into Pau Gasol and the relationship he had with NBA Hall-of-Famer, Kobe Bryant.

The third episode describes the embarrassment that Kobe Bryant and the Lakers felt after they lost to the Boston Celtics in six games during the 2008 NBA Finals. Meanwhile, the fourth episode focuses on Pau Gasol. Gasol spent seven seasons as the Lakers’ starting center and, during that time, he developed a close friendship with Bryant. However, this episode avoids focusing just on Gasol’s statistical contributions. Instead, the episode describes Gasol’s personality, his game, and his relationship with the aforementioned Kobe Bryant.

Let’s dive into the series’ third episode of “The Final Ring.”


“The Greatest Basketball Rivalry Ever”

Gary Vitti served as the Lakers’ head athletic trainer from 1984-2016. He worked for the Lakers during every season Kobe Bryant spent in Los Angeles and retired from his position with the team when Bryant retired from the NBA in 2016. Vitti explained how deep the rivalry goes between two of basketball’s winningest franchises.

“It kind of gets ingrained in you and it’s different, it’s different playing the Celtics,” Vitti said. “We developed a rivalry and a hate for the Detroit Pistons as well, but it was a different kind of rivalry. It was a different kind of hate. There wasn’t a history behind it.”

Bryant wanted to dispel the myth that he could not win a championship without a superstar playing with him. However, the Lakers and Kobe were in for a rude awakening when they lost to the Celtics in 2008.

Finding Motivation

The episode recapped every game of the 2008 finals, making this part slow and repetitive.

However, the narrator does a good job of showing how Bryant, the ultimate competitor, felt after he and his teammates had been embarrassed by their arch-rivals in the NBA Finals.

“The goal was to win a championship. It wasn’t to win MVP or anything like that, so in that aspect we failed.” – Kobe Bryant

Again, the series chose a great quote to highlight how Bryant was able to turn the devastation of that loss into a motivating factor:

“I remember when we were losing, [the Celtics] played that song, that Journey song, and the whole arena started singing that song and I hated that damn song for two years, seriously man. But I listened to that song every single day because it just reminded me of that feeling.” – Kobe Bryant

The episode shows teammate after teammate describe the feeling of embarrassment after the loss. They were determined to never let it happen again.

Laker Adam Morrison was looking forward to a chance for redemption.

“We were hoping for that rematch [against Boston]…the Lakers were labeled as kind of soft and felt like they got pushed around,” Morrison said. “Definitely that second go-around it was a big mantra for our guys to not get pushed around…”


This episode continued showing the impact of the championship loss on Kobe and the team. One thing the series finally did not was quote Bryant himself.

I understand that this episode Is supposed to describe a very important event that really kicked the Lakers’ desire to “never lose in the finals again” into fifth gear. However, it gets repetitive when each game is recapped in the series. The teammate interviews make the interviews feel slow.

Despite this, the episode’s strongest point is when Kobe described the Journey song haunting him and how he purposefully started listening to so it could remind of him of that feeling. It is a vivid quote that shows me what made Kobe Bryant’s great as a competitor. Additionally, it showed me he had an excellent level of mental toughness.

Overall, it wasn’t my favorite episode because it did not seem to move the series forward enough.

“The Final Ring” Episode 4: Kobe’s No. 2

The fourth episode of “The Final Ring,” introduces us to Pau Gasol, who the series portrayed as the second-best player on the Lakers’ 2010 championship-winning-team.

“The reality is, I don’t win those championships without Pau.” – Kobe Bryant

Segueing from the previous episode, “Kobe’s no. 2” recalls that fans and players throughout the league believed that the Lakers had gotten embarrassed by the Boston Celtics the year before. In specific, many thought that Boston Celtics center, Kevin Garnett had dominated the Lakers’ center, Gasol.

This presents a main source of conflict in the episode, making it more interesting to watch. What gets obscured in this episode, is that the Lakers won the 2009 NBA championship, but did not feel it was revenge for what had happened to them a year earlier.

A Strong Friendship

Early on in the episode, the narrator explains the depth of the relationship between Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol as friends.

“To me, he was the bigger brother that I never had,” Gasol said. “[He was] someone I could always rely on, that I could reach out [to] and we could talk and just enjoy it—talking about life, about decisions, about personal stuff. He meant so much to me.”

It was gut-wrenching to hear the sadness behind Gasol when he said that Bryant had “meant so much to me.” It’s evident their relationship was important to one another as both teammates and humans.

Gasol reveals the depth of his relationship with Bryant in this episode, which allows the episode to reveal much more about what Kobe Bryant meant to Gasol, as a mentor, a teammate, and a friend.

“First as a teammate he made me a better player, he brought the best out of me on the basketball court. He helped me grow, as a player and as a person.” – Paù Gasol

Then, the show transitions to discussing the role that Gasol played in helping the Lakers defeat Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2010 NBA playoffs. In this series, the Lakers could not rely solely on the efforts of their leader, “the Black Mamba.” The team needed Gasol to step up.

Gasol did not lead the team in scoring, but he was able to excel at all the important aspects of the game that Lakers needed him to in order to advance.

The Moral of the Story

What I liked most about this episode is that it teaches the audience about the heart of a champion and how Gasol embodied that. In sports, fans often are attracted to the sexiest players, the most outstanding personalities. In reality, it is often the players who keep an even-keel and who are committed to doing whatever they can to help the team before considering individual accomplishments, who are able to play a pivotal role.

My mind goes to Derek Jeter, who always displayed a calmness as the Yankees’ captain from 1996-2014, which helped him win five World Series titles. As the best player on the Lakers for the last two decades, Kobe Bryant also helped his franchise win five championships, which shows a marked similarity between both players. Now both have been inducted into their respective sports’ Hall of Fames.

Gasol embodies the type of leader, who is not overly vocal, but who can still communicate well with his teammates and, most importantly, lead-by-example on the court.

The strongest parts of this episode are the moments when Gasol described how he feels about Kobe Bryant, as the series did a great job of hitting this emotional note during this episode. The episode also moved “The Final Ring” forward by showing how Bryant was able to build chemistry with another teammate, who would grow to become a key contributor to the Lakers’ 2010 NBA Championship-winning-team.

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Anthony has been a sportswriter at In The Zone since Sept. 2019. He graduated from Montclair State, where he was assistant Editor of the student newspaper's sports section. He also co-hosts a sports-themed radio show on the campus station, WMSC 90.3 FM, which was recently named #1 college radio station in the nation.
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