(Above: Gasol are Kobe are here to stay.)
Great, just great.
Despite the Orlando Magic giving it everything they had in the first four games, all they have to show for it is one lousy win and two close losses.
You can blame Stan Van Gundy.
You can point out Rafer Alston's complaints, Jameer Nelson ruining the team chemistry, or Dwight Howard's ineptitude as a free throw shooter.
Magic fan or not, you can say anything you want.
Hell, write a book.
Blame the refs.
Replay every bit of every game, and jot down on a beautiful piece of paper (that no one else will care to read, mind you) exactly how every play, shot, or foul should have happened.
But it won't matter.
No, not really.
And, while many would love to say many-a-thank you to Kobe Bryant, they'd be fooling themselves much like I'm sure ESPN analysts will be fooling you tomorrow morning, and well into next weekend.
I'm sure Stephen A. Smith is already crowning Kobe Bryant as Michael Jordan's successor.
Charles Barkley just called Dwayne Wade to tell him they're no longer friends.
He's crossed over to No. 24.
But really, with all jokes aside, it's time to come to terms with this.
This being the fact that these L.A. Lakers didn't get lucky.
This series wasn't fixed.
These games weren't handed to them.
Save for one no-call elbow to Jameer Nelson's face, these Lakers earned the right to call themselves the best team of the league for this season.
And, for all those same reasons, they very well may have earned the respect and adoration of fans, analysts, and opponents. So much so, that this new-found respect could very well turn to fear.
And we all know what follows fear.
Hell, we saw a little bit of it Sunday night in Game Five.
Stan Van Gundy said it, himself. He sensed his team was frustrated. Down 15 heading into the fourth quarter, you're damn right.
But it wasn't mere frustration, panic, or that they were giving up.
They became afraid.
Kobe Bryant couldn't stop making shots. He'd drive to the lane, throw up an acrobatic lay-up, and go to the line.
Pau Gasol was breaking down Dwight Howard, dribbling like a Harlem Globe Trotter, while pushing Howard and his foul limit to the brink of insanity.
Hedo Turkoglu was flat-out exhausted from trying to keep his team even remotely in the game, while trying to help cover Bryant and the other Lakers guards.
But that's what fear does to you.
It wears you down, adds to the already formidable pressure, gives you knowledge, and gives you humility.
And while Orlando was a terrific team and had an absolutely memorable season and playoff run, they never stood a chance.
No, not really.
Not against a nine-time champion Phil Jackson and an NBA Finals-returnee squad.
This team wasn't just on a mission.
They have allowed basketball and the goal of redemption to overtake their lives, coming together as one powerful source with only one possible outcome in their minds.
If it wasn't the rigorous practices, the complex offensive and defensive strategies, the meditation sessions, or the media blowing everything out of proportion—then it was pure, majestic team-work.
Yes, this was Kobe Bryant's team.
It is his team, but, most importantly, this is in fact a team.
Pau Gasol will sign a long-term deal.
You can count on that.
Kobe Bryant opting out this year or next?
Lamar Odom isn't going anywhere.
Utility men Luke Walton, Trevor Ariza, and Derek Fisher?
As long as L.A. wants them (and they do), they'll be there.
The fact is, love them or hate them, individually or as a whole, this is one of the better teams the NBA has seen in some time.
Not because they can score or defend better than anyone.
Not because they impose their will on you (even though they do), and not because they're stronger, faster, and smarter than the opposition (even though they are).
It's because they out-work you.
They make the extra pass.
They let-they want Derek Fisher to take a clutch shot rather than predictably handing the ball off to Kobe Bryant.
From top to bottom, from their future to their veterans, this is the most complete team in the NBA. And if before Sunday night you didn't believe it, you just got a full dose of knowledge.
Your 2009 NBA Champions, the Los Angeles Lakers, ladies and gentlemen, are just getting started.