On paper, this wasn’t supposed to happen.
Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson, the second greatest player in NBA history Kobe Bryant, and arguably the best frontline in the NBA today (Gasol, Bynum, and Odom) – how did these guys not only lose, but get swept? (AHPS)
The L.A. Lakers lost their series to the Dallas Mavericks 4-0, leaving many fans curious how the defending champs were so easily defeated. After all, the Lakers were expected to win another title this year, and had no injuries to stop them from winning their third in a row. So how did Phil Jackson’s team of all stars look so terrible in getting swept by the Mavericks?
Rarely in sports do we witness a reigning champion get beaten as badly as the Lakers did this past weekend. Unable to develop any positive mental toughness, two Laker players were ejected from the game for losing their cool (Odom and Bynum). Sport psychologists will undoubtedly have a field day trying to figure out where it all went wrong.
Was Dallas just that good? Late season losses would suggest the Lakers were going down long before that, as the Lakers even lost to some of the lesser NBA teams throughout the season. Did they lose their focus? In other words, did “winning” just become boring to these guys?
While we may never know what happened to the Lakers this season, we can certainly question the mental toughness of this team as they appeared to be disinterested in playing for their third consecutive championship this season. This is a shame, especially considering that Phil Jackson previously stated that this would be his last season coaching.
The good news for teams across the country (basketball and beyond) is that games are never won “on paper,” and that even heavy favorites can be upended if they are not on their game. This is an important lesson to learn for most coach and athletes in youth and interscholastic sports, as many games are lost even before they are played due to sheer fear.
If you are a parent or coach involved in youth sports, take a few minutes to process this event with your kids so that they can appreciate how in the world of sports, literally anything can happen. The Lakers proved that no matter how many previous championships a team has won, if you are not hitting on all cylinders even the best teams can be beat. Unfortunately, many kids miss this point, and as a result tense-up when playing against perceived championship-caliber opponents (rather than just going out and playing).