Ah, the sports guarantee. Sometimes it comes back to bite you and sometimes it makes you look like a genius, but either way it gets people talking.
Joe Namath made possibly the most famous and bold guarantee in sports history when he predicted the New York Jets would defeat the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III and Rex Ryan has perfected the art of making guarantees and then never delivering. Kobe Bryant joined the bold this week after guaranteeing that the Lakers – currently 9th place in the Western Conference – will make the playoffs. Will he become a Namath or a Ryan?
Bryant showed confidence in his team in an interview with Sports Illustrated, saying:
“It’s not a question of if we make the playoffs. We will. And when we get there, I have no fear of anyone – Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Denver … whoever. I have zero nervousness about that.”
The Lakers have been playing better recently as winners of six of their last nine games, but it would certainly be hard for most players to display that kind of confidence in a team that is 26-29 on the season and is trailing the eighth and final playoff spot in the West by three and a half games. Then again, Bryant is not most players.
Bryant has become more vocal in recent years as a veteran and leader of the Lakers and he probably felt he had to say something to motivate his team. But where does this guarantee really come from? Interestingly, Bryant used a previous loss as an example of the team’s improvement.
Despite losing to the Heat 107-97 on Feb.10, Bryant saw something in his team’s play that night that gave him the confidence he has in them now.
“We will make the playoffs,” Bryant said. “And we will compete. And part of the reason I have that confidence is the Miami game. We had control of the game. That was no fluke. We were playing very, very well. We were reading the defense, making the extra pass.
“OK, they have two great players [LeBron James and Dwyane Wade] who scored eight straight buckets and took control of the game. But we were right there. We can do it.”
Considering the Lakers are still battling injuries, it will certainly be an uphill battle. Pau Gasol is expected to miss at least four more weeks with a foot injury and Dwight Howard continues to deal with shoulder problems.
However, the Lakers’ upcoming schedule may help them. With five of their next eight games coming against sub .500 opponents, we’ll see in L.A. can get back in the playoff mix.