Rewind a year, back to 2008.
The Lakers lose to the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals. Kobe Bryant goes home angrier than ever. He's seeking redemption. Everyday, he wakes up at 6 AM, goes for a jog, and does what he does best: work hard.
Kobe shoots his jump shots, grabs his rebounds, runs his sprints, and lifts his weights.
While doing so, memories of Game Six of the 2008 NBA Finals flash in the back of his head.
The Lakers start falling behind the Celts...The game starts to fall out of reach...The buzzer sounds...Kobe storms to the locker room.
Trust me, there's no other thing Kobe wants more than another NBA Championship, especially one without Shaquille O'Neal.
It's his pride, his passion, and, more importantly, his dream. On Sunday night, his dream became reality.
Lakers Start Season Hot
After a 112-to-99 win over the Toronto Raptors, the Lakers had a 14-and-1 record, and were easily atop the Western Conference.
Kobe was as joyous as he could be: he's getting his wins and his 25-to-30 points a night.
More importantly, the team was working together.
Let's face it, if Kobe takes 30-35 shots a game, the Lakers cannot win. They have too many weapons not being utilized when Kobe gets selfish.
Pau Gasol is still one of the elite in the game, and sometimes barely touches the ball. Lamar Odom is another reliable player, and Derek Fisher, as the Magic know after Game Four, can still hit those clutch shots he's known for hitting. Andrew Bynum isn't much of a scorer, but can hang with any center in the league.
Clearly, the Lakers are firing on all cylinders. They're last year's Celtics. They're hungry for revenge.
If they were to face the Celts in the Finals yet again, I wouldn't be surprised to see them sweep Boston. That's how hungry the Lakers are. That's how hungry Kobe is. That's how hungry Phil Jackson is.
Lakers Continue to Win
Fast forward to January 31. The Lakers are now 37-and-9, Kobe Bryant is as dominant as ever, and LA is close to a playoff clinch.
Somewhere in the world, Mitch Kupchak is grinning.
Kobe has avoided being selfish on the court, something the Lakers needed him to do. On top of that, the entire starting lineup is healthy and playing well. Lamar Odom even grabbed 20 boards in one night against Atlanta.
It's evident the Lakers are title-hungry. It has been since opening night on October 28.
Kobe has adapted "the scowl," only ESPN hasn't noticed it because they cover the NFL with 99.9% of their airtime.
The Lakers finished off the regular season 65-and-17, in first place of the Western Conference. They first took on the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.
After winning the first two, the Lakers lose a nail-biter Game Three. No need to worry though, as Kobe scored 30+ to take the next two games and move on to the Semifinals, where they take on the Houston Rockets.
SHARE OF SCARES
Kobe did just what the Lakers didn't want him to do: ball hog.
Bryant shot 31 shots that night and, guess what, the Lakers lost. Sure, the Lakers want Kobe to shoot and score, but 31 shots is too much.
Kobe did score 32 that night, but the rest of the starters combined for just 42 points.
The Lakers went on to win the next two, both by double digits. Kobe shot 28 and 27 shots respectively, and the Lakers won. I don't know if it's some kind of force, but whenever Kobe shoots over 30 shots, the Lakers seem to lose.
The Lakers then dropped Game Four in Houston, as Kobe scored a mere 15 points. Keep in mind, the Lakers lost this game while the Rockets were missing Yao Ming.
LA took the next game before dropping Game Six in Houston. Game Seven goes back to LA. Kobe and the Lakers are one slip-up away from missing their chance of revenge.
However, it wasn't Kobe that came through at the Staples Center, but Pau Gasol instead. Gasol went for 21 points and 18 rebounds to beat the Rockets 89-70.
The Lakers then took on the Denver Nuggets in the Conference Finals.
LA dropped Game Two and Game Four, but appeared to have the series all under control.
Kobe and the Lakers clinched a trip to the NBA Finals after a 119-to-92 win over the Nuggets in Game Six.
TIME FOR REVENGE
After the Lakers took the Western Conference Finals, Kobe didn't flash a smile until the championship had been won, whereas Dwight Howard and Rafer Alston of the Magic were all fun and games.
In Game One, the Lakers handled Orland with ease. Kobe went for 40 points and 8 assists in a 100-75 win.
In Game Two, Kobe showed us why he's one of the best closers in the game.
He played 49 minutes in an overtime win, and single-handedly closed out the victory.
The next game, however, did not go according to the Lakers' plan.
It was Pau Gasol who didn't show up for Game Three. He didn't grab any boards, and that's what the Lakers needed.
Dwight Howard, on the other hand, looked like a man among children out on the floor. No one could stop him.
Game Four looked to be the same as Game Three until the last 15 seconds or so. It was almost predictable what was going to happen when Dwight Howard missed both of two free throws that would've put the Magic ahead by four or even five.
Derek Fisher, a.k.a. Mr. Clutch, was just that: clutch. He nailed a three in Jameer Nelson's face to send the game into overtime. The Magic lost their momentum and the Lakers prevailed, giving them a 3-1 series lead.
In Game Five, Kobe was hungry for his 4th championship, and it showed. Bryant came out firing and ended with 30 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 blocks.
The Magic, on the other hand, came out flat. Bill Simmons of ESPN even said, "Did Dwight Howard use Fed Ex or UPS to mail in tonight's performance? And why didn't he cover himself in bubble wrap?" That's how sad the Magic's performance was.
OH SWEET VICTORY
Kobe flashed arguably one of the biggest smiles I've ever seen from him after the final horn rang. Was it because he can say once again that he's the best? Maybe it's because he finally got one without Shaq. Either way, Kobe was as happy as he could be.
What does this mean for the Lakers?
Well, Kobe will most likely stay in LA now. He'll enjoy the championship for a day, and then get back to what he does best: working hard. He'll be hungry again for that 5th championship ring. Sooner or later, he'll be included amongst the likes of Bill Russell when it comes to championships.
And so I give congratulations to Kobe for his 4th championship, to Phil Jackson for his 10th, to Derek Fisher for nearly giving me a heart attack, to Laker fans for getting what they deserve, and last but not least, to that Lakers' bench. I don't think they sat on the bench for one second.