Itâ€™s a holiday tradition at my house (long before I had kids, which says a lot about me, sadly) â€” sitting down and watching the 1964 classic Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Whatâ€™s not to love about a quirky cast of characters teaching a lesson about acceptance? Well, I suppose the lesson of incessant marketing of the show is not a great lesson, but like many things around Christmas I choose to blatantly ignore what I donâ€™t like.
But as I was watching it this year, it dawned on me that there are a lot of parallels between the characters in this Christmas classic and this yearâ€™s Lakers:
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer = Andrew Bynum
Heâ€™s the hero of our story, Rudolph is the lovable young reindeer who is initially scorned because of his glowing nose â€” but in the end everyone learns they need him and his â€œskillâ€ to lead the team on a snowy Christmas Eve.
In contrast, a handful of people in the Lakers organization loved Bynumâ€™s raw skills, but the time it was taking them to develop had some players talking in grocery store parking lots about casting him out to the â€œIsland of misfit players.â€ However, now that it has started to snow, suddenly Bynum is looking like a very good option.
Santa = Kobe Bryant
The Santa in this classic isnâ€™t your always-lovable jolly old elf â€” heâ€™s one of the first people to ridicule Rudolph and his nose. This is a cranky Santa, very worried about getting the Christmas toys delivered â€” and as soon as he realizes Rudolph can help to that end he comes on bended knee asking Rudolph to lead the team.
Kobe can be cranky, but like Santa we have to remember that without him all the hopes and dreams of a happy Christmas (or June in the NBA), are not going to happen. This is his party. That said, after looking around at the snowy landscape, he might be thinking Bynum can light the way.
Hermey = Lamar Odom
Hermey is an elf with an identity crisis â€” he doesnâ€™t want to make toys, he wants to be a dentist. He runs away, connects with Rudolph as a fellow vagabond, and the two say they are “independent together.” Odom seems to want to be â€œindependent togetherâ€ with Kobe â€” both like to create with the ball in their hands. But Odom has a little bit of an identity crisis (is he a small forward or a power forward?) and just seems a little flaky at times. You like the character, but could there be a better choice to pair with Kobe/Rudolph?
Yukon Cornelius = Mitch Kupchak
Cornelius is the prospector that Rudolph and Hermey run into out in the frozen north. Cornelius is on a constant search for gold â€” throwing his pick into the snow, picking it up and licking it only to find nothing. To be fair, Mitch has had some good drafts recently and made some good trades (hello Ariza!) but still, the image of him as a lonely prospector was just too good to pass up.
The Abominable Snowmonster (a.k.a., “Bumble”) = Kwame Brown
Both Kwame and the Bumble are large, imposing physical presences that in the end really have no teeth. But they do each have one skill â€” putting the star on top of the Christmas tree or playing post defense on slower centers.
Misfit Toys = Misfit Players
The Island of Misfit Toys is the home of toys that no boy or girl wants. What about players whose skill sets donâ€™t fit their teams, the players no fans? The NBA is full of these guys â€” Brian Cook was that with the Lakers (before the trade) and Sasha Vujacic has visited the island (but seems to be off it for now). But think about the entire league and some fun coming up with your own extended list.
Sam the Snowman = Roland Lazenby
The snowman (voiced by Burl Ives) guides us through the story of our intrepid heroes, all while holding a green umbrella. Who is the best chronicler of the Lakers today, a few years removed from Chick? Lazenby is my personal choice, but Iâ€™m not sure anyone has come close to filling Chickâ€™s shoes.
Coach Comet = Phil Jackson
â€œMy name is Comet. And even though I’m your instructor, I wanna be your pal.â€ Then he manipulates the young bucks. No mention of Comet being Zen, but isnâ€™t the Buddha in him as it is in all things?