In Lakers' zoo, Bryant was keeper


MIAMI -- OK, girls and boys, let's all march up to the blackboard and write it 100 times: We're sorry, Jerry Buss. ... We're sorry, Jerry Buss. ... We're sorry, Jerry Buss. ...

The much-castigated owner of the Los Angeles Lakers was right. We were wrong. You, me ... everybody.

We portrayed Buss as some sort of moron when he decided two years ago to keep Kobe Bryant instead of Shaquille O'Neal. Oh, how we howled.

How could Buss allow the most dominant big man of our lifetime to walk out the door? Shaq makes everybody around him better; Kobe makes everybody around him worse.

Shaq carries teams; Kobe destroys them.

As the first round of the NBA playoffs, which is about to surpass Gunsmoke as the longest-running series in television history, crawls to its merciful conclusion, there's one thing we know for sure: The Shaq-Kobe debate is over. Buss and the Lakers absolutely made the right call. Kobe is the most dominant, dynamic player in today's game; Shaq was the most dominant, dynamic player in yesterday's game.

Shaq does have one win this week over Kobe. On Monday, Kobe's wife and Shaq's wife each gave birth to girls. Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant was born at 2:03 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time in California. Six minutes earlier, Mearah Sanaa O'Neal was born in Florida. Although this can't be confirmed, it is believed that little Mearah would have been born earlier, but she had to sit in the birthing canal with three fouls.

Granted, after its 92-78 victory here Tuesday night gave it a 3-2 series lead, the Miami Heat will likely still win the series with the Chicago Bulls. Yippee.

The Heat didn't invest $100 million for Shaq to get the team into the second round of the playoffs. It brought him here to win a championship. Period.

Well, here we are only two years in and it appears the championship window is already closing on the Shaq Era in South Florida. This has been the worst statistical season of Shaq's career, and the Heat is worse this season than last season. And, as Shaq continues to age, do we have any reason to believe it won't be worse next season?

Meanwhile, Kobe has the Lakers on the verge of ousting the second-seeded Phoenix Suns from the playoffs and looks eerily like a guy who used to play for the championship Bulls - Michael Jordan.

Shaq, too, is starting to look like an old Bulls player. Does the name Bill Wennington ring a bell?

Mike Bianchi writes for the Orlando Sentinel.

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