(New York Times) Again, Kobe Bryant had his hands full. When he finally shed himself of Orlando Magic defenders, he fittingly cupped two trophies. In one arm, he held the NBA’s championship trophy. In another, he clenched the finals MVP award.
It was the merging of two worlds for Bryant, a fusion of team unity and his obsession with earning his fourth championship ring.
The dogged and almost maniacal twin pursuits ended Sunday. The Lakers found their destination, their 15th NBA championship, after a meandering route.
When the final buzzer sounded, they stood with a 99-86 series-clinching victory in Game 5 against the Magic, whose season-long resilience was lost amid Bryant’s efficiency.
With 30 points Sunday, Bryant secured his first finals Most Valuable Player award. The ear-splitting chants of ‘Beat LA’ early in the game at Amway Arena were replaced by choruses of ‘MVP’ as Bryant marched to the free-throw line late in the game.
The champagne-drenched evening ended a seven-year championship drought in which speed bumps had turned into mountains for the Lakers.
In the stretch between titles, the Lakers had become burdened by soap-opera story lines: from the trade of Shaquille O’Neal to the retirement and rehiring of coach Phil Jackson to the disappointing showing in last season’s finals against the Boston Celtics.
Jackson now has 10 titles – six from his tenure with the Chicago Bulls and four with the Lakers – to surpass the legendary Celtics patriarch Red Auerbach.
The titles were flanked by disappointment, and Jackson’s scalp now shows more salt and less pepper, the accumulation of layered trials before another triumph.
Jackson’s hair was covered after the victory by a gold cap, with the Roman numeral X on it. He called the moment ‘surreal.’
‘I wasn’t at the stage of my life where I could get out and do the things that I had done 10 years ago or 15 years ago to push a team,’ Jackson said. ‘And they pushed themselves and I really feel strongly that this is about them. However, having won 10 championships is a remarkable accomplishment, there’s no doubt about it.’