THE NBA HASN'T had a repeat champion since the Los Angeles Lakers won the last of three consecutive championships in 2002.
I don't expect that to change next season.
Not to take anyway from the newly crowned champs, but the Lakers team that beat the Orlando Magic on Sunday to clinch the title is good, but far from great.
The Lakers could be described as the "flawed champions" of a "flawed league."
Not that it matters, because Kobe Bryant still finally got his title playing without Shaquille O'Neal, coach Phil Jackson still finally separated himself from the legendary Red Auerbach by winning his 10th Finals and the Lakers still got their 15th championship as franchise.
Still, in the annals of NBA history, these Lakers are not impressive.
The Lakers are reminiscent of all the recent NBA champions - good but not dominant.
And because Los Angeles isn't clearly superior in talent to the other NBA teams, repeating will be unlikely.
There is too much competitive balance for dynasties in the NBA.
Free agency and a restrictive salary-cap structure make player transactions difficult. Teams can't stockpile top talent that is in its prime.
To win a title in today's NBA, it takes not only talent, but also a whole lot of intangible factors coming together at the correct time.
The Lakers emerged from a pool of five or six teams that were capable of winning the 2009 title. They were the team that had the most things go right for them at the right time.
Looking back at the playoffs, the Lakers could have just as easily been eliminated in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs had Houston Rockets center Yao Ming not been lost to injury after Game 3.
If Kevin Garnett had been healthy enough to join Paul Pierce and Ray Allen for the playoffs, we might have been talking about the Boston Celtics beating the Lakers for the second straight time in the Finals.
If Courtney Lee makes that layup at the end of Game 2 or Gasol was called for goaltending, Orlando would still be playing.
The line between champion and disappointment in today's NBA is ultra fine.
Avoiding an injury here, making a buzzer-beating layup there, and the results could have been totally different.
The Lakers didn't bludgeon their way to the title. They were good, but also needed the stars to align along the way.
That's why they won't repeat. There are already too many factors working against them going into next season.
First, Bryant, who took part in consecutive Finals and the 2008 Olympics, has played close to a full season of extra games over the last 2 calendar years.
Bryant might be the most driven and focused player since Michael Jordan, but now that he has reaffirmed his legacy by winning a title without O'Neal, it is only natural that he could show some complacency next season.
The Lakers rely on Bryant to motivate them through difficult times to a fault. If his drive slips, the entire team slips with him.
The Lakers have some key contributors who are showing their age and others who show their immaturity.
They also have players who might look for opportunities with other teams, now that they have a championship ring.
Jackson, who has 1 year remaining on his contract, might decide he's ready to return home to Montana.
Considering Jackson has won 55 playoff series, while Auerbach won 99 playoff games, does Jackson really have anything else to prove?
And then there are other teams that were oh-so-close to the Lakers.
Orlando's blossoming young center, Dwight Howard, sat silently after Game 5, watching the Lakers celebrate a championship and fueling his desire to do the same.
Howard could fulfill the task in Orlando that O'Neal ran away from in 1996 when he left for Los Angeles a season after leading the Magic to NBA Finals.
In the West are the Denver Nuggets, who lost to the Lakers in the conference finals, and the Rockets, who fully believe can beat the Lakers.
Boston will get a healthy Garnett back, and don't forget LeBron James, who is still smarting from the Cleveland Cavaliers' loss to Orlando in the Eastern Conference finals.
Like Bryant, James knows his legacy depends on winning championships. James is the league's most talented player and will turn his disappointment into motivation.
Portland also is extremely talented, and the San Antonio Spurs, with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, are still only one right move away from being able to win their third title in 6 years.
The right mix could make any of them champions.
The Lakers won the 2009 NBA title, but too much is working against them to make a repeat. *
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