Much has been made about Shaq and Duncan as the two best big men of their generation. With four rings apiece—and both with three Finals MVPs—the two surely share a lot of things in common. They’re both first overall picks, and won Rookie of the Year; heck, they even shared the All-Star Game MVP award in 2000. Recently, Kobe joined the party and earned his fourth ring (despite the gift the Lakers received the previous season, Kobe and the Lakers earned the 09 Championship). Three players, four rings each, one goal: 2010 Championship.
Now, these three are indeed competing for a fifth title as one Yahoo! Sports writer proclaims, but I just want to set something straight. Not winning a fifth title would not, in any way, subtract from the accomplishments of any of the three.
Say, Cleveland’s experiment ends badly, and they lose in the Finals or the WCF. It doesn’t mean Shaq isn’t a HOF’er. If the Lakers don’t win another one in the next five years with Kobe at the helms, it doesn’t mean he isn’t one of the best players in the league. Similarly, should Tim not win another ring before he retires, it doesn’t count against his being (one of) the greatest power forward(s) of all time.
I doubt if anyone can keep Kobe from getting another ring or two before he hangs his sneakers, so it isn’t so much about him as it is about Shaq and Duncan. You can call O’Neal fat and old; you can call Tim, well, just old. But at their age (the former, of course, being a bit older), they’re still game changers. Sure, they share the spotlight with All-Star teammates. Sure they hoisted only one trophy the last time they won the Finals—compared to a guard teammate who had the Finals MVP trophy too. But these are definitely two of the best bigs of their generation.
Kobe might win again next season, and the next, and the next—thus silencing critics who say MJ had more rings—but Shaq and Duncan are great players in their own right.
Of course, I wish (and hope and pray and beg and plead and implore) that the Spurs win this season, and I think they have a decent shot at winning it all again. But if they don’t, so what? I’m a pretty spoiled Spur fan, and I know five, like six or seven or eleven, is a good number. But I recognize that four’s good enough. If the Spurs don’t win another title this century, I’ll still be the biggest Spurs fan this side of the world. Spurs fans everywhere are bracing for another title run, excited for 2010. Amidst the talk of a fifth banner, I just want to remind Spurs fans—those who would still be fans when the team is fighting for its thirtieth win in March 2015—of this fact: Four’s good enough.
That’s two more than Olajuwon, and one more than Bird. It’s also four more than Barkley, or Stockton, or Malone, or Ewing, or Wilkins…
Yup, four’s more than good enough.