2010 NBA Champions: Los Angeles' Game 7 Victory Over Boston Is 'The Sweetest'
Actually, it played like a WNBA game.
Or as Bill Simmons described from his courtside seat, it was "a cross between a rugby match and a rockfight."
And because of that, Kobe Bryant (who had the most on the line out of anyone in Staples Center tonight) called it "the sweetest one, by far."
His postgame media session was his most entertaining in months, overflowing with jokes and constant smiles, finally shedding his heartless Tin Man routine and admitting that beating the Celtics meant "everything" and that it's "very important" to him to be the greatest Laker of all time.
No, he's still not that. But that's more a reflection on the fantastic heritage that comes with donning the purple and gold than a slight to his virtually unparalleled resume.
What he is now, indisputably, is the greatest player of the decade. Look at the numbers from 2000-2010: Five NBA Championships, two Finals MVPs, seven Finals appearances, one MVP, eight All-NBA First Team, eight All-Defensive First Teams, 11 All-Star appearances.
And if there is any room for his legend to grow in Los Angeles, it's been filled by the personal vindication that comes with a championship over the Celtics. Yes, this game meant so much to Kobe because it meant so much for his legacy.
But on a night when Kobe's jumper deserted him, it was his supporting cast who out-defended and out-rebounded the Celtics and exorcised ghosts of their own.
First, "The Spaniard," as Bryant affectionately calls him, has now and forever purged the "soft" label. In fact, if a reporter ever asks Gasol an "s word" question again, he should immediately be suffocated by pillow...by Gasol himself.
With the game on the line tonight, Pau was the biggest, baddest man on the court. He grabbed every rebound, didn't settle for fadeaways, blocked shots, and roared with enough fury to give young children nightmares of sweaty beards for weeks.
Side note, how about this: Pau Gasol is still the most underrated player in the league. Check out what he's done in the two and a half years since being traded to Los Angeles: Three Finals appearances, two championships, and an 80 percent winning percentage in games he's played. Has any other player ever been on such a streak since being traded mid-career?
(A side side note; this is why we should tremble at the thought of LeBron James and Chris Bosh hooking up this summer. For all the free agent hoopla, those are the two players who's games would mesh beyond perfection, like the synergistic relationship between The Mamba and The Spaniard.)
Derek Fisher, a gentleman and a baller.
Ponder this; Why was he so emotional after the Game Three win in Boston? This dude has seen a lot in his 35 years, but even after his 0.4 shot , the Salt Lake City game when he disclosed his daughter's condition, and the championship clinching three-pointers in Orlando last year, he was never like that in an interview.
Was it because he singlehandedly won a game in the TD Garden when the last time the Lakers were there in the postseason they watched the Celtics get crowned as champions? Was it because of Paul Pierce's comments that they wouldn't be going back to L.A.? Is it because he's a free agent this summer and knows this may be his last deep playoff run where he plays significant minutes? Was it because he's been written off all season as the weakest part of the Lakers' roster?
I vote for the latter. Reliable as sunshine in June, he always throws the life preserver when the Lakers need it. He's Kobe's confidant, making big plays in Game Seven of the NBA Finals in 2010, and calming and reassuring an embittered Kobe hellbent of fleeing the West coast in 2007.
When Kobe was asked about Fisher, he simply said, "There aren't enough words to describe him, and how I feel about him." And that said it all.
Ron Artest was not just the best overall player of the night. He wasn't simply the missing piece to solve the Celtics. He wasn't just the only provider of points during long stretches when the rest of the team was bogged down in Celtic sludge. He didn't just help erase the demons of 2008.
Ron Artest vanquished the ghost of Trevor Ariza.
He presence has been second-guessed (and third- and fourth-guessed) all season. Ariza was a fan favorite who punctuated the Lakers 2009 championship run with several memorable plays. But on the most important night of the year, when the rest of the team looked uptight, Artest played tough and measured basketball the entire game.
And then he left his unique mark on the series (as only he could) with the greatest postgame interview ever , including what is definitely the first and only shoutout to a players' personal shrink on national tv as the confetti was raining. Unfortunately, he spooked Doris Burke and she nervously tried to get away. A shame, I wanted more Ron-speak.
Lamar Odom, after an eternity of not living up to expectations and frustrating inconsistent play, has proved that he's a guy you can count on, even in Game Seven of the NBA Finals.
Andrew Bynum still has the baby face, but he manned up, willing to play on a meniscus tear as much as his body would allow. His role became as limited as his mobility, but he earned the respect of his teammates by delaying surgery to win a championship now. He has emerged as a dedicated young leader on this team, something that the Lakers will have to consider as they weigh trade opportunities this summer.
And Phil Jackson continues to pad a virtually flawless body of work, lapping most of his competition on the track of greatest coaches. Most importantly, a Lakers championship all but guarantees that he'll be back to vie for an unprecedented fourth three-peat. Kobe knows he needs a few more rings, and Phil is the man to get him there.
The Celtics scratched and clawed their way this far, shocking the Magic and Cavaliers (ruining the city of Cleveland for the next 50 years in the process), but were ultimately running on fumes. Their offense fell apart, Ray Allen tentatively passed up shots, and Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol repeatedly dove head first into the bowels of the Celtics defense to score at the line.
Jeff Van Gundy called the game and said, "the Celtics will look back and say we didn't even make them make shots."
In the end, the Lakers out- gritted the grittiest team in the NBA. Doc Rivers said, "It was exactly the type of game we wanted."
But it was the Lakers who showed championship defense and championship resolve, scoring points the tough way (12-14 from the line in the final six minutes) and the unlikely way (crushing three from Ron Artest with a minute to go), slowly digging out of a 13-point third quarter deficit in a game that had World Cup pace scoring.
There's nothing left to prove. Except for one Kobe Bryant. The only enemy left on his checklist is Michael Jordan.
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