• Kobe Bryant, Lakers capture 15th NBA title - [Sports news]

    2009-06-15 | Tag:NBA

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    ORLANDO, Fla. – Kobe Bryant has the NBA title he needed most - the one without Shaq.

    Bryant's seven-year chase of a coveted championship is over. He's got his fourth, and Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson his record 10th, a ring for each finger. One year after failing in the finals, Bryant and the Lakers have redemption, and all the rewards that go with it.

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    Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant holds up the Bill Russell MVP Award (R) and the Larry O'Brien NBA Championship trophy as he signals his four Championship wins after the Lakers defeated the Orlando Magic in Game 5 of the NBA Finals basketball series in Orlando, Florida, June 14, 2009.

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    Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant (24) goes up to score past Orlando Magic Courtney Lee (2nd L) and Hedo Turkoglu (L) as Magic Rashard Lewis, Lakers Andrew Bynum and Magic Dwight Howard (C-R) watch during Game 5 of their NBA Finals basketball game in Orlando, Florida, June 14, 2009.

    They earned their 15th title on Sunday night as Bryant scored 30 points and Pau Gasol added 14 and 15 rebounds in a 99-86 win in Game 5 over the Orlando Magic, who ran out of comebacks.

    It took longer than Bryant expected, but he has stepped out of former teammate Shaquille O'Neal's enormous shadow - at last. His fourth championship secured a strong case can be made for Bryant being the league's best player since Michael Jordan hung up his sneakers.

    His coach stands alone.

    Jackson, the chilled-out, bow-legged Zen Master who won six league titles in the 1990s with Jordan in Chicago, now has won No. 4 with Los Angeles and broke a tie with legendary Boston coach Red Auerbach as the winningest coach in finals history.

    "I'll smoke the cigar tonight in memory of Red," Jackson said. "He was a great guy."

    Bryant and Jackson, whose relationship strained and briefly snapped under the weight of success, are again at the top of their games.

    Together.

    Nothing was going to stop Bryant, who spent the postseason scowling, snarling, baring his teeth and all but breathing fire at anything in his path. For weeks, the All-Star has worn his game face, and only when the victory was his in the final seconds did the finals MVP allow himself to smile.

    After the final horn, he leaped into the air and was quickly engulfed by his teammates, who bounced around the floor of Amway Arena. Bryant then gave a long, heartfelt hug and shared a few words with Jackson before sweeping up his daughters, both wearing gold Lakers dresses, into his arms.

    Bryant had come up short twice in the finals before, in 2004 with O'Neal against Detroit, and again last season against the Celtics in the renewal of the league's best rivalry. The Lakers were beaten in six games, losing the finale in Boston by 39 points, a humiliating beatdown that Bryant and his teammates had trouble shaking.

    They went to training camp with one goal in mind. This was going to be their season, and except for a few minor missteps, it was.

    After beating Utah in the first round, Los Angeles was forced to go seven games against Houston, which lost center Yao Ming to an injury. The Lakers then took care of Denver in six games, setting up a matchup with the shoot-from-their-hips Magic, who made their first visit to the finals since O'Neal took them there in 1995.

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    Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant (24) drives to the basket past Orlando Magic's Marcin Gortat (13) of Poland during Game 5 of their NBA Finals basketball game in Orlando, Florida, June 14, 2009.

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    Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant celebrates their NBA Championship win after defeating the Orlando Magic in Game 5 of their NBA Finals basketball game in Orlando, Florida, June 14, 2009.

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    Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant brings the ball up court against the Orlando Magic during the second quarter of Game 5 of their NBA Finals basketball series in Orlando, Florida, June 14, 2009.

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    Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant (3rd L) goes to the basket as Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard (3rd R) tries to block the shot in the third quarter during Game 5 of their NBA Finals basketball series in Orlando, Florida, June 14, 2009. Watching the play are Magic's Rashard Lewis (L), Courtney Lee (2nd L), Hedo Turkoglu (2nd R) and Lakers' Pau Gasol (R).

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    Los Angeles Lakers forward Lamar Odom (7) goes to the basket past Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard in the third quarter during Game 5 of their NBA Finals basketball series in Orlando, Florida June 14, 2009.

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    Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant (R) celebrates a basket against the Orlando Magic with teammate Pau Gasol in the second quarter during Game 5 of their NBA Finals basketball series in Orlando, Florida June 14, 2009.

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    Los Angeles Lakers Pau Gasol holds the Larry O'Brien Trophy after they defeated the Orlando Magic to win the NBA basketball championship in Orlando, Florida, June 14, 2009.

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    Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant drives to the net between Orlando Magic Hedo Turkoglu (15) of Turkey and Marcin Gortat (13) of Poland as Lakers Pau Gasol (L) of Spain looks on during Game 5 of their NBA Finals basketball game in Orlando, Florida, June 14, 2009.

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    Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard (12) grabs a rebound ahead of Los Angeles Lakers' (L-R) Lamar Odom, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Jordan Farmar during Game 5 of their NBA Finals basketball series in Orlando, Florida, June 14, 2009.

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    Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard walks off after being called for a foul in the third quarter during Game 5 of their NBA Finals basketball series against the Los Angeles Lakers in Orlando, Florida, June 14, 2009.

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    Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy yells from the bench in the second quarter during Game 5 of their NBA Finals basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers in Orlando, Florida June 14, 2009.

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    Tennis player Serena Williams smiles as she sits courtside during Game 5 of the NBA Finals basketball game between the Orlando Magic and the Los Angeles Lakers in Orlando, Florida, June 14, 2009.

    [Agencies]

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