The 2009 Playoffs: A Look Back At The Best Postseason in Years
Four nights ago, Kobe Bryant threw his fists and jumped for joy, as the Magic watched from their bench in disappointment.
The Lakers had won their 15th NBA title in franchise history.
The result of the Lakers' overwhelming finals victory was an assortment of articles discussing Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson's place in the history of the NBA.
However, all the hype surrounding Kobe Bryant's fourth championship distracted NBA fans everywhere from remembering the exhilarating playoffs which had come to an end.
The last two years, the NBA Playoffs have definitely had their moments, but as a whole, they've been fairly dull. In fact, I was let down by the lack of thrilling games after two very entertaining playoffs in 2005 and 2006.
The 2009 NBA postseason, on the other hand, was as exciting as I had ever seen.
We saw heroic game-winners, stunning upsets, many overtimes, unbelievable athleticism, and great basketball.
But none of these could compare to the raw emotion and desire of both the stars and the supporting players.
It's time to look back at the postseason that was, starting with the best playoff series in NBA history.
First Round: No. 2 Boston Celtics vs. No. 7 Chicago Bulls
On an April Saturday at noon, the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls tipped off the playoffs.
Rookie sensation, Derrick Rose, was making his playoff premier, and he made it a good one.
Two-and-a-half hours later, Rose was in the process of scoring 36 points, but despite this historic performance, Paul Pierce was at the free throw line with only 2.6 seconds to go. The Bulls had a one-point lead.
The first free throw was good. The second one, well, it rattled out, and a recurring theme was set for the series: An unbelievable amount of overtimes.
In overtime, Chicago's young talent and athleticism took advantage of the battered and older Celtics. The Bulls won the game 105-103 and stole home court advantage.
Game 2 felt very similar to Game 1. TD Banknorth Garden was rocking in both contests, but the Bulls seemed unfazed.
Despite being a must-win for the Celtics, the game was tied at 115 with only 12.3 seconds to go. The Celtics needed a wakeup call. They needed something to revitalize their championship swagger.
Ray Allen answered the call by knocking down a contested three-pointer over Joakim Noah with only two seconds to go.
The power jolt Ray Allen provided carried over to Game 3, where the Celtics burned the Bulls.
However, Game 4 would prove to be one of the most entertaining games in playoff history.
Both Ray Allen and Ben Gordon delivered clutch jumpers, but neither could out-do the other.
At least not in regulation.
Game 4 would follow the mold of Game 1 and head to overtime.
In the extra session, Ben Gordon proved to the world that he truly has "cahones" by knocking down an off-balance three-pointer to tie the game at 110 with only 4.6 seconds left.
These teams were headed to a second overtime. The Bulls fought to build their lead to three, but the Celtics had their eyes on tying the game and forcing a third overtime.
However, John Salmons blocked Paul Pierce at the buzzer, and the series was tied 2-2.
Game 5 would be a critical one, because at the time, Boston had never lost a series after being up three games to two. The Bulls knew they needed to win.
Another overtime was played, but this time, Pierce took over and knocked down the game-winning jumper.
The Celtics now had the opportunity to take the series in Chicago. Things were looking down for the young and inexperienced Bulls, but they truly brought everything they had in the triple-overtime thriller that was Game 6.
This game had too many highlights to count.
Rajon Rondo and Kirk Hinrich's scuffle, Brad Miller's five-point rally to force overtime, another clutch three-pointer by Ray Allen, and most of all, Joakim Noah's game-changing fastbreak dunk in triple overtime.
The Bulls forced a Game 7. Many analysts were calling this series the best in playoff history, and the hype surrounding the final game was unbelievable.
Sadly, the deciding Game 7 did not live up to expectations.
The Celtics fed off the energy of their home crowd and won the game by a solid 10 points.
This series was one that NBA fans will remember for a very long time.
First Round: No. 2 Denver Nuggets vs. No. 7 New Orleans Hornets
Going into the series, many thought the Nuggets would struggle with Chris Paul's Hornets. Memory of last year's playoffs caused analysts to confuse this New Orleans club with the one we witnessed take the Spurs to seven games in 2008.
From the very first game, it was evident that the analysts were wrong. The Hornets couldn't figure out how to stop the Nuggets.
The vast difference in the chemistry of both teams was evident.
New Orleans never got the opportunity to mesh due to numerous injuries, specifically to center Tyson Chandler. The Hornets also tried to trade Chandler at the deadline, but the deal was rescinded.
Somehow, the Hornets pulled out Game 3, but Game 4 can be considered the worst effort by any team in NBA playoff history.
The Nuggets won by 58 points, a margin which is usually only seen in video games.
This series helped augment Denver's confidence. The swagger they would build from this series would carry until the last two games of the Western Conference Finals.
First Round: No. 1 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. No. 8 Detroit Pistons
A matchup of the most-hyped and most-disappointing teams in the NBA lived down to its billing.
The Pistons had been a mess since the All-Star break, while Cleveland dominated the NBA. Detroit had struggled through injuries and playing time complaints, while the Cavaliers were soaring as high as the sky.
This series' only memorable moment came in Game 1, when LeBron James banked in a half court shot at the first-half buzzer.
In the end, it was no surprise to anybody when this series was taken in four games by LeBron and his Cavaliers.
The Pistons seemed disinterested, while the Cavaliers toyed with their opponent all 192 minutes of this series.
First Round: No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. No. 8 Utah Jazz
"We didn't give them much of a battle, knowing we have to play them again, it looks pretty bleak."
"They have a terrific team. They have guys who can pass the ball, do about anything you ask a team to do. They've got guys who can make big shots, who just know how to play the game, make the game look simple"
"We're just like a little dent in the road, far as they're concerned. They're very comfortable playing against us and obviously should be."
Jerry Sloan uttered those words before the series even began.
While it is true that the Jazz never truly scared the Lakers, they did make the series more exciting than the usual No. 1 seed vs. No. 8 seed matchup.
After the Jazz played two somewhat competitive games in Los Angeles, and Deron Williams hit a game-winning jumper in Game 3, the "What is wrong with The Lakers?" discussion was sparked, and it lasted all the way through the Western Conference Finals.
Thanks a lot, Deron.
Other than that, this series is one to forget. It certainly wasn't a Boston vs. Atlanta or Golden State vs. Dallas match-up.
At least this year put the "one-sided" back into the No. 1 vs. No. 8 matchups.
First Round: No. 4 Atlanta Hawks vs. No. 5 Miami Heat
This series gives off the illusion of being extremely competitive.
The two teams fought for seven games, but not one of those games had a lead change after the first quarter.
I was really high on this series going into the playoffs. I expected Dwayne Wade to come up big in clutch situations and spark memories of his great playoff performances from 2004-06.
However, every single game was decided by double digits.
I'm still looking for an explanation as to how this happened.
At first, I was reminded of the Spurs and Hornets series last year. But at least in that series, there was a close Game 7, and the blowouts were all in the home teams favor.
I hope there is never another series like this one.
First Round: No. 4 Portland Trail Blazers vs. No. 5 Houston Rockets
There was every reason to doubt the Houston Rockets.
They had never won a first-round series with Yao Ming. They were without Tracy McGrady. They had thrown away the second seed on the final day of the regular season by losing to Dallas.
The Trail Blazers, on the other hand, came into the series with all the confidence in the world. They were a young, exciting ball club ready to tackle the NBA playoffs.
However, Portland got an early wake up call at home.
Yao Ming went perfect from the field, and his presence opened up the game for players like Aaron Brooks, Ron Artest, and Luis Scola, as the Rockets embarrassed the Blazers 108-81 in Portland.
Portland would bounce back to tie the series behind a sensational 42-point performance by Brandon Roy, but the two games in Houston proved to be too much for the Blazers.
Portland fought as hard as they possibly could, but the Rockets pulled out two close games behind the strength of their home crowd.
The Blazers had their opportunity to tie the series at 2-2 in Game 4, but a critical offensive foul by Roy and a lack of timeouts ended their hopes.
Portland failed to win in Houston but handled their business at home. Sadly, there was no doubt in anyone's mind that Houston would handle business in their building and take the series in six games.
The Rockets proved to be the tougher team, while the Blazers couldn't find an answer for Yao Ming. The Rockets finally got past the first round, and technically, so did Tracy McGrady but, he's not off the hook quite yet.
First Round: No. 3 San Antonio Spurs vs. No. 6 Dallas Mavericks
Odd years this decade have been synonymous with Spurs championships, so there was no reason to believe that the Spurs wouldn't at least make some noise without Manu Ginobili.
After all, Roger Mason, Jr. did hit four game-winners during the regular season.
Sadly, that's not how it happened.
The Mavericks proved to be the more energetic, healthier, and confident basketball team.
For the first time in years, the Spurs were vulnerable. Tim Duncan finally started showing signs of age, and Tony Parker just wasn't enough to carry the load.
San Antonio started off the series by going up 13, but they couldn't sustain this early Game 1 lead. Dallas came alive and dominated the rest of the game.
It was evident from the first game that the Spurs were overmatched, but even so, they are a prideful team who won't give up without a fight. Led by Tony Parker's 38 point performance, the Spurs dominated the Mavericks in Game 2.
But the momentum wouldn't carry over to Dallas.
The Mavericks would go up by 33 points after three quarters because of explosive plays and dominating rebounding. It was almost like watching the end of a dynasty when Ryan Hollins had an explosive put-back dunk over Tim Duncan.
The rest of the series followed suit.
San Antonio's dynasty has now become a memory. And Dallas, well, this series was just false confidence for them.
First Round: No. 3 Orlando Magic vs. No. 6 Philadelphia 76ers
In the shadow of the Celtics and Bulls historic series was another great matchup.
The 76ers had lost six of their last seven games, and only ended up with a .500 record. Meanwhile, the Magic finished with a record of 59-23 and were considered one of four elite teams in the NBA going into the playoffs.
None of that regular-season silliness matters in the playoffs.
The Magic pulled ahead by 18 points in the second half of the first game, and nobody was surprised by Philadelphia's early struggles. Everybody expected the 76ers to buckle, but they fought their way back.
To everybody's surprise, it was a tie game with only 12 seconds left.
The ball was in the hands of the 76ers, and coach Tony DiLeo trusted his star, Andre Iguodala. Iggy let the clock run down to two seconds until he knocked down a step-back, high-arching jumper over Hedo Turkoglu.
The 76ers took Game 1, but the Magic refused to fall down 2-0 going back to Philadelphia. Orlando had a convincing 96-87 victory over the 76ers in Game 2, and regained the momentum going into their two road games.
Game 3 was a thriller. Philadelphia was up by as much as 17 points in the second half, but the fourth quarter belonged to the Magic.
Repaying the 76ers for their comeback in Orlando, the Magic tied the game at 94 with only six seconds to go.
The Magic knew they could get the stop, but luck wasn't on their side. Orlando forced Thaddeus Young to make a play, and he was dead in the water with Dwight Howard all over him.
Luckily, Young lost the ball.
Dwight Howard had knocked the ball out of Young's hands, but this put him out of position when Young got the ball back and spun right for a game-winning layup.
The 76ers had stolen another game and were now up in the series.
The Magic knew they couldn't afford to fall down three games to one. And once again, Game 4 was tied with only seconds to go.
This time, Hedo Turkoglu delivered the win for the Magic.
A contested three-pointer with only one second to go was the hit that the 76ers could never recover from.
The Magic dominated Game 5, but it would be a costly win. Dwight Howard threw an elbow at Samuel Dalembert, which forced the league to suspend him for Game 6.
It did not matter. The Magic, despite facing adversity, delivered one of their best performances of the year by winning in convincing fashion by a score of 114-89.
The Magic had survived to play another day.
Second Round: No. 1 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. No. 4 Atlanta Hawks
To Cleveland, there was no difference between the Pistons and the Hawks. Neither team belonged in the same building as the Cavaliers.
The Cavaliers won every single game by double figures and held Atlanta under 90 points in every single game.
The Cleveland starters were limited due to the big leads they would build on the court.
Atlanta was evidently confused. They weren't getting out into transition, and instead, decided to try to beat Cleveland at their own game.
There was also a lack of adjustments made by the Hawks in between games, and that can be credited to a lack of efficient coaching.
Mike Brown is far from a great head coach, but to not make any adjustments in a series expresses a lack of competence on the part of Mike Woodson.
After half of the rounds in the playoffs were over, Cleveland had yet to lose.
Maybe this early-round dominance led to overconfidence, or their lack of tough competition resulted in a relaxed mentality.
But the Cavaliers team we saw in the second round wasn't the one we would see in the conference finals.
Second Round: No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. No. 5 Houston Rockets
The Lakers were obviously the more talented team, but no one expected the Rockets to go down easy.
Houston proved in the first round that they were a tough-nosed ball club who could score through Yao Ming.
The offense relied on Ming's ability to suck the defense in, and from there, they could get easy buckets.
From the start of the series, the Lakers' defensive play seemed lackadaisical. The Rockets made Game 1 a physical affair, and the Lakers couldn't respond.
Houston stole the first game of the series 100-92 in Los Angeles.
Game 2 had the same physical nature, which resulted in a rise in emotions and tempers, and both Derek Fisher and Ron Artest were ejected.
However, in the second game, the Rockets could not stop an amazing 40-point showing from Kobe Bryant, and the Lakers tied the series.
In Game 3, Los Angeles had its best defensive showing of the series, holding the Rockets to only 41.7 percent shooting and forcing 17 turnovers.
The Lakers handled the Rockets 108-94 and took back home court advantage.
The Rockets didn't just lose on the scoreboard but, more importantly, Ming suffered an injury that would sideline him for the rest of the season.
Most thought the Lakers would easily take the next two games of the series and move on to the Western Conference Finals, but that's why they play the games.
Aaron Brooks delivered a career-high 34 points, leading the Rockets to a double digit victory in Game 4. The Lakers' inconsistent defensive effort that would become a common theme throughout their championship run was first brought to public attention after this game.
The Rockets' gutsy performance didn't carry over to Game 5, where they got blown out by 40, but it was revitalized in Game 6.
Despite not having either of their top two scoring options, the Rockets forced a deciding Game 7.
In Game 7, where all the chips were on the line, the Rockets could not find a consistent offensive source, while the Lakers amped off their defensive effort and relied on Pau Gasol's 21-point 18-rebound showing to carry them through to an 89-70 victory.
The Lakers had 22 more total rebounds than the Rockets. There really isn't much else that need be said. When a team gets out-rebounded by that much, it puts itself in a very tough position.
The Lakers advanced to the Western Conference Finals.
This series proved to be a learning tool for the Lakers, and a valuable experience on their way to the championship.
Rocket fans should be proud of their team. To win two games against the eventual champions without either of their superstars is quite a feat. If only they could have stayed healthy.
Second Round: No. 2 Denver Nuggets vs. No. 6 Dallas Mavericks
The big question after Dallas dismantled the San Antonio Spurs was whether the Spurs were that bad, or the Mavericks were that good.
The Mavericks' second-round series gave weight to the first option.
The Nuggets were the more physical, aggressive, talented, smart, and composed ball club. The fourth quarter in Game 1, Game 2, and Game 3 were complete and utter disappointments for the Mavericks.
The Nuggets were running the Mavericks off the court.
Mark Cuban's ball club was evidently out-matched. Their late-game letdowns resulted in Pepsi Center beatdowns.
While back at home, the Mavericks lost Game 3 on an off-balance three-pointer by Carmelo Anthony.
The series, like any in the NBA, was over after Dallas fell down 3-0.
The Mavericks did have one final home victory in Game 4 because of Dirk Nowitzki's heroic 44-point performance, but Denver quickly squashed any hopes of a series comeback in Game 5.
But this heated series was not without drama.
Nowitzki's girlfriend, Cristal Taylor, was arrested between Game 1 and Game 2. Nowitzki, however, did not let this incident effect his play, and he continued to lead Dallas.
If only the hobbled Josh Howard, who was suffering from knee injuries, would have been more effective. Then, the Mavs may have made some more noise in the series.
The most memorable moment of the series came at the end of Game 3.
Dallas was up 105-103 with only six seconds remaining. It was their intention to expend a foul, because they were not yet in the penalty.
Antoine Wright committed what appeared to be a foul, but the officials did not call it, and Anthony hit what can be considered a series-winning three pointer.
The Mavericks did not react well to the zebras' missed call, and Josh Howard made his concerns known by yelling in their faces after the game was over. He would have to be practically carried to the locker room.
Mark Cuban was obviously far from happy about this turn of events, so much so that he pushed an ESPN camera man.
Luckily for the Mavericks organization and the NBA, tempers did not escalate to any sort of a physical altercation.
There isn't much else to say about this matchup. It was just another notch in Dallas' disappointment bedpost.
Second Round: No. 2 Boston Celtics vs. No. 3 Orlando Magic
Even though The Boston Celtics were without Kevin Garnett, their green pride wasn't going to let them give in without a fight.
The Celtics were far from the defensive juggernaut they were with Garnett's presence in the paint, so there were some games in the series in which Boston simply had no answer for the Magic's three-point attack.
Even so, the defending champs pulled ahead three games to two by feeding off their home crowd, and because of a "Big Baby" Davis buzzer beater in Game 4 in Orlando.
The highly-publicized statistic that Boston was 32-0 when leading a series three games to two convinced many that the Celtics were going to pull out the series.
The series deficit would cause Orlando's franchise center, Dwight Howard, to question the coaching staff and complain about his lack of touches.
For many teams, this would be a sign of collapse. But the Magic built from it.
Despite being down by as many as 10 points in the second half of Game 5, the Magic forced a Game 7 behind 23 points and 22 rebounds from Howard.
In Game 7, the Magic came to life. Boston's heroic Garnett-less run came to a bitter end, as Orlando won by 19 points in TD Banknorth Garden. The Celtics defense was exposed, as the Magic rained in 13 three-point field goals and held the Celtics under 40 percent shooting.
Thus, the Celtics were dethroned and had their 32-0 streak snapped on the same night.
For the first time in what felt like forever, the Celtics weren't talking about their "greatness."
Western Conference Finals:No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. No. 2 Denver Nuggets
Since the beginning of the season, everybody had penciled in the Lakers and Cavaliers as their NBA Finals matchup.
However, for the first time, the Nuggets put that matchup in jeopardy.
Many believed, after watching the first and second rounds of the playoffs, that the Nuggets were the best team in the playoffs. Their athleticism, offensive ability, and newly found interest on the defensive end of the floor made them very dangerous.
Meanwhile, the Lakers' inconsistent defensive efforts were questioned. After every win, Kobe's club would relax and have a lazy defensive performance.
No matter who they picked to win, everybody was expecting a terrific Western Conference Final.
And that is what they got.
Game 1 in Los Angeles was a nail-biter. The Nuggets struck first, taking an eight-point lead in the first quarter. Carmelo Anthony put together a terrific 39-point performance, but he was still out-done by the league's best player.
Kobe Bryant delivered a 40-point barrage that would save the Lakers from throwing away the home court advantage in Game 1 by winning 105-103.
But the Nuggets did not back down.
In Game 2, Denver came out with a new found intensity and ended up pulling out the win in the final minute, thanks to a Kenyon Martin layup with less than 30 seconds to go.
Believe it or not, Game 3 was another close one. The Nuggets dominated nearly the entire game, but the fourth quarter belonged to Kobe and the Lakers.
Down by eight going into the final period, the Lakers came to life. Relying on Bryant to shoulder much of the load once again, the 2008 MVP delivered in the fourth.
Kobe finished with 41 points, none bigger than the three he knocked down over J.R. Smith to give them a lead with only one minute to go.
Los Angeles would never forfeit that lead, and that night belonged to the Lakers.
Game 4 pretty much summarized the Lakers postseason to that point.
After an impressive victory, the team would relax and pay little attention to the defensive end of the floor and the boards. J.R. Smith made them pay with four three-pointers and 24 points.
The Lakers were frustrated, and Phil Jackson blamed the officials for favoring the Nuggets. He would be fined, but the officiating seemed to favor Los Angeles from that point forward.
In Game 5, the Lakers did what they had done the entire postseason: They bounced back.
Due to all the tough losses and games given up because of seemingly lazy efforts, people were ignoring the reality that Los Angeles had yet to lose back-to-back games in the playoffs.
The Lakers had a great all-around team effort in Game 5. Kobe created for his teammates and made his teammates' jobs much easier whenever he would attract a double-team by moving the ball.
Game 6 was seemingly a turning point in the Lakers' championship run. Earlier on in the postseason, the purple and gold would throw away Game 6, but this time, the Lakers meant business.
Bryant rained in 35 points and 10 assists, while Trevor Ariza, Lamar Odom, and Pau Gasol combined for 57 points.
The Lakers not only dominated the boards but held the Nuggets to under 44 percent sooting.
Many would call Game 6 the best of the Lakers championship run. 119-92 was the final score, and the Lakers were heading back to the NBA Finals.
Eastern Conference Finals: No. 1 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. No. 3 Orlando Magic
Everybody thought this was LeBron's year.
Cleveland had yet to lose a game in the playoffs, and no one thought the Magic, who struggled with the KG-less Celtics, stood a chance.
The "experts" and analysts weren't even taking the matchups into account. They simply thought the Cavaliers would trounce the Magic.
Maybe the media got to Cleveland. Maybe it was the earlier rounds of the playoffs. Maybe it was the Magic's matchup advantages.
Or maybe the Orlando Magic had a better ball club.
I'm going with all of the above.
The Cavaliers backcourt was both too small and too weak. They played two combo guards because they had no need for a player who could set up the offense, because everything was run through LeBron.
Sadly, Mo Williams and Delonte West were not able to deliver the easy roles given to them. All they had to do was knock down shots when the defense turned their attention to stopping LeBron, yet they were unable to complete this task.
Cleveland's big men lacked versatility and weren't strong enough to stop Dwight Howard, nor were they fast enough to keep tabs on Rashard Lewis.
LeBron did all he could, but it was evident that his team was not ready to shoulder any of the load.
Game 1 actually started off quite well for Cleveland. The Cavaliers built a lead as big as 18, but the Magic came storming back and ended up winning the game 107-106 on a Rashard Lewis three-pointer with 14 seconds left on the clock.
The Cavaliers were stunned. Their first loss of the playoffs hurt.
But everybody expected them to bounce back.
Once again, Cleveland went up early in Game 2 behind the strength of their home crowd, but Orlando did not fold, and with only one second to go, Hedo Turkoglu gave the Magic a two-point lead.
Going into Orlando down 2-0 in these playoffs would have been hopeless, but LeBron made sure that would not happen by knocking down an unbelievable three-pointer at the buzzer, sending Cleveland into a frenzy.
Everybody was certain this shot was going to change the fortunes of the Cavaliers in these conference finals, but the Magic did not feel the same way.
Orlando delivered a ten-point beating to the Cavaliers in Game 3.
Was Cleveland looking vulnerable? LeBron wasn't Jesus? Is this the same Magic team we saw against Boston?
Game 4 was another step towards the demise of the Cavaliers. The wine and gold played some of their best basketball, yet the Magic still led by two after a Rashard Lewis three-pointer with only four seconds remaining.
Despite being up against the wall, LeBron forced a foul on Mickael Pietrus and knocked down two unbelievably clutch free throws with only half of a second on the clock to force overtime.
LeBron's effort was futile, as the Cavaliers could not get the job done.
The Magic went up by as many as six late in overtime, and despite a desperation rally by LeBron, his chance to win the game on a half court heave was too far to the left.
Cleveland now stood on the brink of elimination.
Being carried by LeBron's triple-double, the Cavaliers pulled out a 112-102 victory Game 5 at the Q.
But in Game 6, everything came full circle.
The Magic delivered a beatdown of epic proportions on. The Cavaliers collapsed and never made a real run after the Magic pulled ahead by 18 points at the half.
The Cavaliers, who only two weeks ago appeared to be a shoe-in for the NBA finals, had their season end at the hands of a much better Magic team.
LeBron, the only reason the Cavaliers even made it a series, walked off the court in disappointment. He refused to shake any of the Magic player's hands, including his Olympic teammate Dwight Howard.
The league MVP's unsportsmanlike act would steal NBA headlines for the next week by offending every single person who had nothing to do with the series, but it could not bother the Magic.
On that night, Orlando had won the Eastern Conference crown.
NBA Finals: No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. No. 3 Orlando Magic
One year ago, the Lakers walked off of TD Banknorth Garden with green confetti falling on them and Queen playing in the background. The frustration in Kobe Bryant's eyes was evident after he was delivered a 39-point championship clinching beatdown by the hands of the Celtics.
This year, Kobe was a man on a mission.
The self-proclaimed Black Mamba was near silent in all press conferences. He rarely had a smile on his face, and he spent what appeared to be every waking hour preparing for this Finals series.
Kobe had played for nearly three straight years nonstop due to his decision to play for Team USA. He was obviously exhausted, but he was not about to let it get in his way.
When asked about potentially hitting "a wall" and not being able to perform at a high level he responded:
"As far as me hitting the wall, so what if I did? I didn't, but so what if I did?....I'll run straight through it."
It was evident that nothing was going to get in Kobe's way in his quest for a championship ring he could call his own.
The Magic would try, but the Lakers, unlike the Cavaliers, had a cast who could support Kobe.
In Game 1, Kobe had the best Finals performance of his career by putting up 40 points and delivering a one-man run in the third quarter. No matter who they put on him, Kobe would still score with ease.
Born from Kobe's sensational third quarter was a new look: The Kobe scowl.
So the Lakers rolled to a 100-75 victory in Game 1, but the Magic had a history of bouncing back.
Game 2 started off as a bore. Neither team could get their offensive play going, and after one quarter, the game was tied at 15.
Soon, however, these two offensive-minded teams started to get going.
It became a shootout.
Both teams weren't giving up an inch, and at the end of regulation, Kobe would have a chance to win it. The best closer in the game attacked left, passed Turkoglu, then pulled up.
However, the ball did not go anywhere.
Turkoglu blocked the shot from behind and called a quick timeout, giving the Magic one last opportunity to win the game.
Stan Van Gundy drew up a terrific play, which resulted in Courtney Lee having a wide open layup to win it. This was Lee's, a rookie out of Western Kentucky, opportunity to be a part of NBA history, but he missed the shot and the game went into overtime, where the Lakers pulled out the 101-96 win.
The Magic weren't quite down trodden yet. They were a resilient team all season long and knew they could win Game 3 at home.
Game 3 would be a duel, but the Magic would rely on the best shooting performance in NBA finals history (62.5 percent) to carry them to victory.
Despite this shooting performance, something was wrong. The Magic's three-pointers, their bread and butter, were taken away by the Lakers.
Without their most powerful weapon, how could Orlando hope to win?
It would have to fall on Dwight Howard's shoulders.
Sadly, the player known as Superman wasn't having great offensive outings in The Finals. Howard was held to under 50 percent from the field, and he couldn't knock down his free throws.
In fact, missed free throws would go on to give the Lakers complete control of the series in Game 4.
With only 11.1 seconds on the clock, Dwight Howard was sent to the free throw line with a chance to put the Magic up by five and ice the game. He would miss both, giving the Lakers a chance to tie.
Phil Jackson made the unorthodox move of inbounding the ball from the back court. Derek Fisher was trusted to bring the ball up the floor and knock down a three-pointer to force overtime, and he did so in the face of Jameer Nelson.
Neither team could get their offense going in overtime. The game was tied at 91 with only 30 seconds to go. Kobe was double teamed, so he trusted Derek Fisher to knock down another gigantic three-pointer.
Fisher delivered a dagger into the hearts of the Orlando Magic. Dwight Howard's club knew the NBA finals were over.
The Magic did come out strong to start Game 5, but after a quick start, it was all Lakers from there.
Adam Morrison finally won his first championship.
So ends one of the best NBA postseasons ever. There were more great moments in the first two rounds of these playoffs than the last two playoffs combined. David Stern should be very happy with the way these playoffs transpired.
It may be a while before there is another postseason with this much excitement.