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Remembering Kobe’s Legacy; Final Two Episodes of “The Final Ring” Review

Ready for the last “The Final Ring” review?

(By the way, if you happened to miss my previous reviews, just check them out on Double G Sports)

 

The seventh episode of “The Final Ring: Kobe Bryant and the 2010 Lakers’ Championship” centers around the 2010 NBA Finals. From the first episode of the series, the main conflict involves the Lakers’ desperation to avenge their loss in the 2008 NBA finals to the Boston Celtics. The docuseries ends with its eighth episode acting as an eulogy for Bryant by describing the lasting legacy he leaves behind as “the Black Mamba” and one of the greatest NBA players of all time.

 

“The Final Ring” Review, Episode 7

In this episode, former Laker point guard and five-time NBA Champion, Derek Fisher describes what he thinks was special about the Lakers-Celtics rivalry in 2010.

“It was like Magic [Johnson] and Larry Bird, how they talked about how they used to watch each other’s performances. Larry would turn on the news or pick up a paper and see what Magic and the Lakers did last night. He would feel like he had to top that or outdo that. That was how driven we were to outdo and outlast them.”

Fisher compares the 2010 version of the rivalry with the one that was going on in the 1980s.  These comments capture your attention by placing the Lakers-Celtics rivalry from 2008-10 on the same competitive level as the one that Magic Johnson’s Lakers had with Larry Bird’s Celtics.

Kobe’s Lakers played two NBA Finals against the Celtics, winning one and losing one. During the 1980s, the Lakers played three NBA Finals against Larry Bird and the Celtics and would emerge victorious twice.

Fisher went on to illustrate how the Lakers viewed the Celtics as a measuring-stick for their own success.

“We had pretty high standards for ourselves, but because of how difficult they were as a team to play against, we always loved using them as a barometer…we knew that if we couldn’t beat them, we weren’t where we needed to be.”

This episode had some good quotes, but it could have been better if it had included more insightful comments like the ones Fisher makes here. Instead, the episode repeats far too often how much the Lakers wanted to get revenge against the Celtics.

Furthermore, “The Final Ring” failed to interview the Lakers’ head coach, Phil Jackson. Certainly Jackson would have been an integral person to interview about the Lakers-Celtics NBA Finals rivalry. This episode feels too much like a recap with nothing new to add.

Teamwork Makes the Dreamwork

One of the greatest parts of the seventh episode is when it showcases Derek Fisher becoming the hero in game three of the 2010 Finals. With less than a minute remaining in Game Three, Fisher dribbled all the way up court and scored the two points that gave the Lakers the lead with ten seconds remaining.

Bryant chose to point out how important Fisher had been during his long career with the Lakers:

“It’s a huge thrill for him, for all of us to see him come through in these moments, but truthfully, he’s done it over and over and over again. It’s almost his responsibility to our team to do these things.”

On the flip side, a tense moment in this episode arises when the Lakers lose Game Five. After working so hard to have their chance to avenge the 2008 Finals loss, Kobe and the Lakers found themselves on the brink of elimination. Then, the episode takes us on another twist, in Game Six, when the Celtics lose Kendrick Perkins for the rest of the 2010 Finals with a torn ACL.

This episode has plenty of sound bites from coaches and players, but no comment was more shocking than the one Doc Rivers made after Game Five:

“They still have not beaten our starting five. Our starting five against the Lakers has a ring. Tell them don’t forget that.”

Rivers’ comment stood out, because he was reminding the media that the Celtics had been given a bad break with Perkins’ injury. He even claims that his team deserved to win that championship, instead of the Lakers, but the Lakers had been given the title. It was not a great example of humility or sportsmanship and Rivers’ comment stands out like a sore thumb, or should I say, a sore, green thumb. (No offense Celtics fans, it’s hard not to make a pun when it’s that obvious.)

Later on, the episode shows how the Lakers would close out Game Seven of the 2010 NBA Finals. An unlikely hero, Sasha Vujacic, had to make free throws at the end of the game to keep Los Angeles ahead. This twist demonstrates that Bryant did not lead his team to victory and redemption on his own.

In fact, the 2010 Lakers won because they had a team full of role players who fulfilled their roles perfectly. Without the Game Three heroics of the wise Derek Fisher or those clutch free throws from Sasha Vujacic, the Lakers might not have won in 2010.

“The Final Ring” describes how the 2010 Lakers were able to roll with the punches, survive falling behind to their arch-rivals and win in a hard-fought, seven-game series.

Teamwork is a major focus during this seventh episode. Bryant not only basks in the glory of earning the championship, but he gives credit to his teammates.

“This one is by far the sweetest because it’s them [the Celtics]. I wanted it so bad, and sometimes when you want it so bad it slips away from you. My guys [teammates] picked me up.”

It always warms the heart to hear a team’s leader or best player, such as Kobe Bryant, give credit where credit is due. The series shows not only how much of a competitor Kobe was on the court, but it also shows how much of a leader and mentor he was to his teammates.

This episode ends by displaying photos of Kobe and his teammates celebrating after lifting the Larry O’Brien trophy in 2010.

“The Final Ring” Review, Episode 8: Remembering Kobe

“Kobe became the reason why an entire generation of ‘Hoopers’ played the game. A person that showed the world what work-ethic and persistence can lead to. He was a basketball player who’s influence transcended basketball.”

One thing that the episode could have included was the “Kobe Bryant China Fund.” Bryant started the China Fund in 2009 as a way of supporting youth basketball in China. Also, Bryant was a strong supporter of professional women’s basketball.

“The Final Ring” repeats too often how competitive Kobe was on the floor and how much beating the Celtics meant to the Lakers. But it does not share enough detail on the things Bryant was doing, charities and such, outside of his career as a professional basketball player.

Former Lakers’ head athletic trainer, Gary Vitti strongly describes the man he knew:

“He took the words ‘can’t’ and ‘won’t’ out of his lexicon and replaced those words with ‘can’ and ‘will’. He just convinced himself that he could do it and then he went out and did it. Kobe was one of those guys that didn’t focus on the things that bothered him. He never got on the floor and was pain free.”

This comment was one of the strongest of the entire series, because they show what Vitti, who spent two decades with Kobe Bryant, remembered the most about Kobe Bryant. As good as some of sound bites provided may have been, the docuseries still did not interview two of the most well-known NBA legends that coached and played with Kobe: Phil Jackson and Shaquille O’Neal. Now, it may have had trouble getting these two. Still, it would have been enlightening to hear either of them describe what they observed about Kobe as a player and a person.

A Detailed Look at Bryant’s Personality

Later in the final episode of the series, we hear from Bryant’s teammate, Sasha Vujacic. He remembered the relationship that Kobe had with his daughter, Gianna (who Vujacic refers to as ‘Gigi’) who sadly perished in the helicopter crash that killed her and her father on January 26, 2020.

“Gigi was an evolving version of [Kobe] and I always admired their beautiful bond. His commitment to excellence showed in everything that he did, but it was truly inspiring to see him shower his princess with love as a father and husband. He was special.”

These comments are heartbreaking. However, it was a nice comment for one of Kobe’s teammates to make and a pretty good insight into who Bryant was as a father.

In previous episodes, the viewers see how close Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant had been both as teammates and as friends off the court. Here, Gasol describes Kobe Bryant’s work-ethic and the example that he set for his teammates.

“He was a constant inspiration and example for me and our team. From [Kobe] being at the facility at five, five-six-seven in the morning, you never knew when he was going to show up and get that extra work in and dedication. His commitment to winning and being the best was just off the charts.”

Throughout the series, Pau Gasol, who really learned the most from Kobe Bryant during his seven-year career with the Lakers, who provides the best quotes. Gasol is not just praising what this legend did on the court. Instead, he is describing how hard that legend worked and how that made an impact on his game and his life. It was heartwarming to hear Gasol vividly describe the bond he had with Bryant. Credit to “The Final Ring” creators for extracting the best memories out of Gasol in the fourth and eighth episodes.

“The Final Review:” Grading “The Final Ring”

As mentioned,  direct comments from some of the biggest stars in the NBA who had crossed paths with Kobe Bryant were obviously absent from the series. The series dedicated a whole episode to Phil Jackson, in which he does not comment. Instead, the series features several sound bites from Lakers, Adam Morrison and Josh Powell, who were not star players.

On the other hand, my favorite episodes were the second episode, which was on the legendary rivalry Bryant had with LeBron James during his career, and the sixth episode, which discusses the impact that head coach Phil Jackson had both on Kobe and the 2010 Lakers team.

“The Final Ring: Kobe Bryant and the 2010 Lakers’ Championship” shines a light on two stories: The professional basketball career of Kobe Bryant, and the journey Kobe and the Lakers took to win the NBA title in 2010.

Because the 2010 championship is a focal point, the Lakers’ loss to the Boston Celtics in the 2008 NBA finals was a huge part of the series, which was often repeated in the first, third and seventh episodes. The third and seventh episodes were specifically about the 2008 and 2010 NBA Finals which were played between the Lakers and Celtics. These episodes were interesting, but detracted from the other episodes, which were more about who Kobe Bryant was a friend and teammate to many of the 2010 Lakers.

The information that fans would most likely want to learn from this series have to do with his relationship with his head coach, Phil Jackson, which was not a perfect relationship but one that was repaired when Jackson returned as the Lakers’ bench-boss in 2005. The docuseries described that relationship in some detail, but, again, without an interview with Phil Jackson more detail was not possible, unfortunately and that hurt the series. On the contrary, the series portrays the relationships Bryant had with his teammate, Pau Gasol, and his biggest rival and friend, LeBron James very well.

It also does a good job of showing the elements that the 2010 Lakers team contained and how Jackson, Bryant and the team leadership fused those elements together on their way to winning the 2010 NBA Championship

Overall, the series had style and highlights the key moments of the 2010 Lakers championship season. It pays fitting tribute to Kobe Bryant’s life, but I thought it could have included more interviews with members of Kobe Bryant’s family who could describe how he behaved as a husband, a father, and as a person.

The series also did not describe Bryant’s background, including his early life growing up in Philadelphia. It had its flaws, like all docuseries do, but overall has compelling interviews especially in episodes two, four and six.

I would recommend watching the whole series for those reasons. Plus, the overall run-time should be around one hour and twenty-minutes. So, it’s a pretty easy binge-series.

GRADE: A-

 

 

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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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