Although the Lake Show closed out the Magic in Florida, their victory was celebrated thousands of miles away in the heart Los Angeles with rambunctious fans going into a frenzy as Kobe and company won Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Sunday (June 14) to become the 2009 Champions.
Kobe Byrant ended Game 5 with 30 points, six rebounds and five assists, and took home the MVP trophy as icing on the cake. Although it’s the superstar NBA player’s fourth ring, it wasn’t until Sunday that Kobe answered the never-ending question about whether he could win a title without Big Shaquille O’Neal in his corner.
That criticism was repeated over the years, and seven years after his last NBA Champion, Kobe’s Lakers — sans Shaq — brought home the victory, and he now seals his own legacy, which was always going to be intertwined with the center he won with and feuded with until the two stars couldn’t stand to be in the same city.
Despite the past feud, both have grown. However, Kobe admitted that the Shaq thing was always looming over him.
“It felt like a big ‘ol monkey off my back,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing … It was annoying. It was like Chinese water torture, just keep dropping a drop of water on your temple.
Big Shaq gave Kobe a congrats, along with Pau Gasol, Derek Fisher, Didier Ilunga–Mbenga, Sun Yue, Amdam Morrison, and Phil Jackson, all via Twitter.
“Congratulations Kobe, you deserve it,” Shaq wrote on his Twitter update. “You played great . Enjoy it my man, enjoy it. And I know what you’re sayin right now, ‘Shaq, how my ass taste?’
“Congrats to you to Phil Jackson. … You are the greatest now,” he later added.
Throughout the playoffs, Kobe was so serious, so intense. It was clear that he wanted it so bad, he could taste it and he was going to do anything in his power to make it happen.
The Lakers earned their 15th NBA title with a 99-86 win over the Magic at Amway Arena to win the Finals 4-1. At the end of the game, Kobe promised his coach, Phil Jackson. But if you saw the locker room victory, he didn’t keep his promise.
After all, if there was just one day to celebrate, this was it. Jackson won his tenth ring as a head coach, becoming the all-time best winning NBA Coach, surpassing the record of 9 that he previously shared with Red Auerbach.
“He told [Jackson] he’s not going to pour any [champagne] on him,” Lakers forward Luke Walton told FoxSports.com. “We say the Lord’s Prayer every Sunday, and right when [Jackson] stepped into the huddle to start it, Kobe poured a whole bottle of champagne on his head. It was pretty awesome.”
When Jackson came back to the Lakers after Rudy Tomjanovich signed on to be his successor in 2004. But after Tomjanovich quit in February 2005, Jackson got the call while he was on a Australian expedition and eventually agreed to return. Never did he think he’d see another championship before his retirement though.
“I said that I’d have to think about it a long time because this team is quite a ways from a championship, even though Kobe Bryant always gives you a chance to win,” Jackson said. “When I came back, I didn’t anticipate we’d win and I’d be part of it. I thought maybe I’d build the steps to a winning team but I didn’t think I’d be part of it. This is much quicker than I thought it would happen.”
Kobe told the LA Times, following the game, that Jackson was so pumped about the historic moment that he just sat back and enjoyed the celebration in the locker room with the rest of the players … which included the champagne bath.
“You can see in his eyes how ecstatic he is,” Bryant said. “It’s been a long time since he had a champagne bath, and I knew that, so I made sure he became part of our circle [in the locker room] and we got him pretty good. He took his glasses off, threw his head back and soaked it all in because this is a special time, and for us to be the team that got him that historic 10th championship is special for us.”
Jackson is under contract for next season for $12 million. He’s expected to return, but in the off-season he will go through his annual checklist that includes a battery of health tests, as well as his personal assessment of his energy and mind-set.
Trevor Ariza and Lamar Odom — both of whom were big contributors to the Lakers win — will become unrestricted free agents July 1. No word on what their plans are at press time.
Congrats to the Lakers for bringing home another championship.
A parade in celebration of the Lakers win will take place on Wednesday (June 17) in Los Angeles down Figeroa Street. For more info, visit Lakers.com.