It has been known as the great migration. All the elite centers, besides Hakeem Olajuwon, Bill Russell, David Robinson, Moses Malone and Patrick Ewing have left their teams to join the storied franchise, the Los Angeles Lakers, in order to strengthen their legacy and join the immortal of NBA history.
Hollywood is a place that attracts the biggest of stars. No matter how bright your star is, once you are under the bright lights of Los Angeles, it will strengthen your star power and will commercially catapult you to measures that are beyond belief. In L.A., the possibilities are endless.
It all started with Wilt Chamberlain. The goliath presence of the Big Dipper left the city of Philadelphia in search for even more stardom and the chance to win more championships. He only had won a single championship while under the shadow of the East's best, Bill Russell and the Celtics. After 10 seasons, it was time for a change and Los Angeles provided just that. Making it to the Finals only once as a Sixer, Wilt made it to the big dance four times in tinsel town. Even though he only won one more time, in 1972 against the New York Knicks, he made his presence known and his legacy was cemented forever.
Following in Wilt's footsteps, arguably the most offensively skilled center of all-time, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, would leave Milwaukee after just six seasons while winning just one championship. A year after the all-time great Oscar Robertson retired, Kareem knew that he would need more help and wanted to build on his legacy somewhere else. In Los Angeles, he won five more championships and became the NBA's all-time leading scorer where he had the privilege of playing with Hall of Famers Magic Johnson, Jamal Wilks and James Worthy.
The next dominant center in the NBA, besides Hakeem Olajuwon was Shaquille O'Neal. Shaq was arguably the most dominant force to ever put on a pair of basketball shoes. The debate is between Wilt and Shaq, but if you look at their physique and the style of play in their eras, Shaq was the more dominant force and it really is not even close. At 7'1" and 315 pounds, Shaq was a big fish in a small pond while playing for Orlando. Soon after he got to the NBA, he brought the Magic to the Finals against the Olajuwon led Rockets. Ultimately, they lost in a sweep and Shaq knew his days in Disneyworld were numbered. After leaving the Magic, Shaq joined the Lakers and they instantly became contenders for the first time since the Showtime era. After a few years of maturation, the Lakers turned into an all-time great team and reeled off three-straight championships and played in one more. Shaq went three out of four with the Lakers in the Finals, something of legendary status. His reputation is what it is because of his move to Los Angeles. He is the greatest personality that the League has ever seen, and playing in Los Angeles helped drive that persona.
Now, Dwight Howard has the privilege to follow in the footsteps of NBA royalty and has the chance to win big in Los Angeles since he now is paired up with two-time MVP Steve Nash, the greatest player since Jordan in Kobe Bryant and arguably the second best European ever in Pau Gasol. Dwight has the opportunity to become the next great NBA center. All he needs to do is win.
But what all this is coming down to is this: the greatest centers of all time had to come to Los Angeles to heighten their stardom and brighten their NBA futures, but Andrew Bynum is doing the opposite. He is migrating East, away from the bright lights of Hollywood to showcase his ability and to create a legacy as one of the best centers of his generation, and possibly of all-time.
When Bynum was thrown down by Shaquille on a tip-in dunk in his rookie year and he popped right back up, sprinted down the court where he established great position and threw a shimmy shake on the future Hall of Famer and ferociously dunked on Shaq, I knew this kid was going to be a star. He had a knack for the moment. That is something you cannot teach.
Andrew Bynum flipped the script. He has already won two NBA Championships. Against the Magic in the 2009 finals, he averaged 6.0 ppg and 4.2 rpg in only 19.0 minutes of action. He was a young talent who was emerging as an impact player in this league. Despite only averaging north of seven points and five rebounds in the 2010 Finals against the Celtics, he was the team's fourth option offensively behind Kobe, Pau and Lamar Odom and was quickly imporving.
The stellar play of Odom from 2006-2011 retarded Bynum's growth and he was not allowed the proper opportunity to succeed at a high level. Hall of Fame head coach Phil Jackson loved a team with versatility and when Odom was on the floor with Gasol, that combination gave the team the best chance to win.
When Lakers' ownership decided to trade Lamar to the defending champion Dallas Mavericks last summer for a trade exception, the opportunity for Bynum to blossom was upon us.
Bynum answered the call in the biggest of ways.
Now that Bynum was able to get his minutes on the floor, he flourished into the game's best offensive center. The tutelage of Kareem was paying off and he had the skills now to and the stamina to play a career high in minutes at 35.2 mpg. In his extended time on the court, Bynum, even though he was still the third option on offensive, exploded offensively averaging 18.7 points per contest while grabbing 11.8 rebounds a game.
Remember, he did all of this while being the third option offensively.
Now that Bynum proved to the world that he can stay healthy throughout the season and that he can carry the load offensively, he will have the chance to take the Eastern Conference by storm.
Even with two championships under his belt, his career is just getting started.
After playing with Kobe Bryant since he was 17 years old, Bynum has developed a killer instinct and a knack for calling for the ball which will help him grow into a superstar as soon as next season.
Out of all of the destinations possible for Bynum, Philadelphia is by far his best landing spot.
The 76ers are a young up-and-coming team. They have talented players at every position, but they were missing a talented center to clog the paint defensively and score at will offensively. Spencer Hawes was their starting center last season. Hawes is a serviceable big man, but he plays out of position. At 7'1" and 245 pounds, he seems to have the size of an NBA center, but he is a shooter with a finesse game. He should play the power forward spot or come off the bench for Bynum at center to help spread the floor.
With the additions of the extremely talented Nick Young, sharp shooting Dorell Wright, and the veteran Jason Richardson, the 76ers are building a strong offensive team that can score with the best teams in the league as well as play stellar defense. Head coach Doug Collins will expect his team to play with energy on both ends of the floor, and this team is made up of the perfect type of talent.
Now that Andre Iguodala is out of the picture, the team may be even more improved. Thaddeus Young can start at his natural position, small forward, and Evan Turner can develop into to star that we all expected him to be after leaving Ohio State. Since Iggy is now in Denver, playing time for T-Young and Turner will increase, and so will their production. Jrue Holiday is an emerging star and in this golden age of point guard play, the Sixers do not seem to lack anything in that department. The emergence of Temple standout Lavoy Allen will help the team grow and win since he is a do-it-all type of second round pick. He can score from anywhere on the court and has underrated moves as a rookie. He is known as the KG stopper.
Remember, this team took the Celtics to seven games in the second round. Now that Young and Turner will not have to share minutes, they will blossom and Bynum will be the heart and soul of this team.
Truly, the 76ers are going to be the hardest team to match-up with in the East. They have the best center and the most flexible roster. They can play fast and run the break or they can slow it down and throw it down to Bynum 40 times a game. The Heat will be the favorite, but the 76ers are a dream matchup for the Heat. Their two weakest positions are center and point guard, which are strengths for the 76ers.
The bottom line is that the Sixers are going to be a force to be reckoned with, and Andrew Bynum can start the second act of his career as one of the most feared players in the East.
Since Dwight is gone, Bynum is the 'Beast of the East'.
If Bynum and the Sixers were a stock, I would go all in.
Projected stats for Bynum this season (if healthy): 38.6 minutes per game, 24.5 points per game and 13.2 rebounds per game.