With 28.2 seconds left and a five point lead in the penultimate game of the NBA Finals, the San Antonio Spurs had a 98.6 percent chance of winning their fifth championship. The rest, of course, is history — Miami created a few extra possessions and a pair of 3-pointers from LeBron James and Ray Allen, along with a Kawhi Leonard missed free throw, knotted the game at 95. The Heat won in overtime. The tenor of the seventh game was very similar, San Antonio was within striking distance at the very end, but the leagues best talent put the finishing touches on the series with a dagger mid-range shot.
It's very difficult to spin the final two games into a positive. (Sorry for harboring the bad memories again.) Except if you're Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant, who told Lakers.com that the Spurs' championship rally will fuel him this season. Bryant has one more title than Tim Duncan, so if he's cognizant of his legacy, putting some distance between Duncan in the title conversation could solidify him as the best player since Michael Jordan (if he isn't already).
"And probably San Antonio getting so close to winning No. 5, probably hurt me a little bit too. I want to make sure I push the ring count out a little further. It was really, really close there. They played phenomenally well. But it's a testament to what skill can do. To what us old guys can do if you play together, if you play with one mind and one purpose you can accomplish great things. It was inspirational for me and hopefully inspirational for the city of Los Angeles and this organization of what we can do, how this tide can change fairly quickly and we'll be looking at a parade."
There are several hurdles in his path. First and foremost, he tore his Achilles just a few months ago and the injury typically saps the athleticism and productivity of it's victims. Bryant will turn 35 next month, and another taxing season is not ideal for his body, especially if he returns to the court early. Second, the Lakers' immediate future is tied to the indecisive Dwight Howard and that is not an enviable position.
The Spurs do not have such hurdles, and they're a better bet at making a deep run in the Western Conference. If the ball bounces San Antonio's way a few times, then the pressure will really be on Bryant to deliver another title.