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NBA Playoffs: Shaq, Duncan, Kobe, and the one for the thumb

May 9, 2010, 3:12 PM EST

At Spurs blog Pounding the Rock, a discussion for today’s Game 4 centers around a plea from a fan to not allow the Spurs’ dynasty to die. But a line caught my eye.

“I don’t want it to be over. I so desperately want to see Tim (Duncan) get his
fifth ring (before Shaq, before Kobe, oh please, before them). Man
I want that so much.”

It kind of speaks to what’s on the line for those three players. While the final count will undoubtedly be the biggest factor, you have to wonder how many more chances these three legends will have.

The Spurs are looking at three years without a Finals appearance, and Duncan’s not getting any younger, let alone Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. Duncan has put together the most consistent performance of the three, consistently leading his team to the late playoffs. But partly because he played in San Antonio and nowhere sexy like Miami or LA, he’s still not considered by mainsteam media in the same range. But getting the fifth ring before he retires would be a considerable step, and especially to do so before the other two. Doing so without the extravagant payrolls in LA or having another superstar like Wade or LeBron would set him apart.

For Shaq, this has to be his last real hurrah, unless the Cavs re-sign him out of gratitude in the event of a championship. He always held the trump-card in the Kobe-Shaq debate with the fourth ring, but of course, Kobe’s negated that. He’s not competing with Duncan, simply on star-power. His legacy is largely decided, the fifth would only cement him and ensure he’s not surpassed in retrospective. He’s no longer a real force in the game, but getting the thumb ring first gives him bragging rights, and let’s face it. That means a lot to him.

Bryant? Bryant has more chances. You can realistically count on the Lakers being in contention for at least two more seasons. But this season has brought with it the very real fact that Mamba is mortal. He’s turned it back on versus the Jazz (because, well, they’re the Jazz), but his struggles physically have been very evident. Getting five this year means that if they Lakers wee to slip or the Thunder or Cavs to continue rising that his legacy is assured.

Again, we’re talking degrees. Three Hall of Famers, three champions, three legends. But that race to the fifth does mean something. It sure looks at this point like Duncan will not be the first. Shaq and Kobe are still in the race, and if the Finals come down to those two, you can expect to hear about it a million times.

Turns out five may be the magic number.

  1. Anand - May 10, 2010 at 9:55 AM

    nowhere sexy like San Antonio or LA ?

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