Purple and gold confetti rained down in the Staples Center late Thursday night after the Los Angeles Lakers clenched their 16th NBA title, beating the Boston Celtics 83-79 in game 7. The Finals MVP Kobe Bryant then jumps up on the scorer’s table, shook his fists and extended five fingers… marking his fifth title with the Lakers.
There was no question from the beginning that these two teams weren’t going to let this be an easy Final for one other to win. The competition between the Lakers and Celtics was apparent from the first jump ball in game 1 to the final minutes in the 4th quarter of game 7. The teams have met twelve times in the NBA finals, but this win only marks the third win for the Lakers. And although Bryant had been downplaying the NBA’s best rivalry for the past couple weeks, even he acknowledged that banner no. 16 will be a little bigger in his mind compared to the others that hang in the rafters. “I was just lying to you guys,” Bryant said after the Lakers first game 7 win over the Celtics, “this one is by far the sweetest, because it’s them.”
In the series he averaged an impressive 28.6 points, but left the fate of game 7 up to his teammates. Bryant shot only 6 of 24, eventually earning eight free throws and ending up with 23 points. The Celtics defense forced L.A. to miss 21 of its first 27 shots and held them to only 21 successful shots in the first three quarters, with Bryant and Gasol having a combined 6 for 26 in the first half. “This was the hardest one by far. I wanted it so bad and sometimes when you want it so bad, it slips away from you. My guys picked me up.” Despite his disappointing and uncharacteristic stats, he still earned his fifth title and second MVP with the Lakers.
Another big question is Phil Jackson and his return to the Los Angeles Lakers. His contract is up and it is not guaranteed he will be back next season, although all indications are that Jackson will be back to sign with the Lakers. With this win in the finals, Jackson has earned his 5th NBA title with the Lakers, making it his 11th overall. “I’ve got to take a deep breath. I’ve got to take some time to think about this,” Jackson said, who would be entering the next season at 65 years old. “This was great. I’ll wait to make that decision in a week.”
Whichever Jackson decides, the Lakers will be grateful for the years he did give. They’ve closed out their playoff opponents on the first try 10 times while winning three straight Western Conference titles over the last three years with Jackson. And although the Celtics led by as many as 13 points against the Lakers on Thursday, the game 7 trophy is now in Los Angeles.