Kobe doesn’t have any more work to do on the court — at the moment.
Keyed by a 16-0 run midway through the second quarter, the Los Angeles Lakers never looked back at the Orlando Magic Sunday night, netting their 15th NBA championship.
The Lakers victory gave coach Phil Jackson a record 10th title, as Big Chief Triangle’s tie with the late Red Auerbach at nine championships went up in (cigar) smoke.
Bryant, the MVP of the 2007-08 NBA season, saw his team fall short to the franchise’s nemesis Boston by 39 in the Celtics’ clincher in Beantown last year. From there, Bryant helped lead the “Redeem Team” to Olympic goal in Beijing against teammate’s Pau Gasol’s squad from Spain.
Then, there seemed to be a passing of the torch to LeBron James as the game’s best player during the 2008-09 season. Well, Kobe and his puppet had the last laugh on the MVP and would-be King, whose team couldn’t match up with the Magic’s front line and failed to make their appointed rounds in The Finals.
In the championship series, the Magic, which itself could have been up 3-1 going into Game 5, ultimately disappeared for a handful of reasons: the team’s inexperience, turnovers and missed free throws down the stretch in tight games; Dwight Howard’s lack of hands (how many times was he stripped or had the ball fouled out of his mitts) and lower body strength (gather and dunk it, big man, please); and some questionable coaching moves by Stan Van Gundy.
Indeed, ABC lost out on the Nielsens in at least a Game 6 because of some highly questionable coaching decisions — the insertion of Jameer Nelson over Rafer Alston and the series benching of Anthony Johnson, and the full court press and lack of foul at the end of Game 4 immediately come to the fore.
But back to — as Mark Jackson was wont to say — that man again. During Game 5, The Finals MVP racked up 30 points, six rebounds, five assists, four blocked shots and a pair of thefts in a virtuoso performance.
Consider these highlights: a vicious right hand slam off a left baseline elevation. A move for the ages from the mid-post: a left-to-right float across the lane that culminated with him changing hands on a multiple pump, hanging jumper over Howard that went off the glass and left Bryant sprawled on his rump. And witness to the game’s best mid-range game: when the Magic crept within a dozen with just over two minutes remaining, Kobe dribbled left, banked it and sealed matters.
Sure, there were moments of fatigue, of frailty, of five missed free throws in the Game 3 loss. Through it all, though, Bryant — who had enough confidence in his teammates to let them lend a hand at key times over the four playoff rounds — proved he was still the best in the world on the court. And Kobe still has more work to do in the seasons ahead if he wants to enter into the conversation about joining pro hoops’ all-time elite team…
But for now, he has one more immediate job to do — convince Nike to cut the strings on those Most Valuable Puppets ads ASAP.